Light fight between Hammond middle school, neighbors ends quietly


A bitter dispute between Seminary Hill Association and city officials ended quietly earlier this month with a school board decision to upgrade Francis Hammond Middle School’s field without lights.

The project initially called for a new artificial turf field, reconfigured track, a storm water management system and 60-foot lights, but the prospect of late night games and over-illumination irked neighbors. They claimed the proposal would lower property values and diminish quality of life around the West End school.

Led by SHA, neighbors appealed a split planning commission vote narrowly approving the project in June. Though the board of zoning appeals ultimately tossed out most of the neighbor’s objections, residents took the disagreement to court in the fall.

But school officials effectively quelled the issue by voting to move ahead with the project — already more expensive than the anticipated $1.6 million price tag — and leave the lights by the wayside. Upgrading the field, which was scheduled for completion by the start of this school year, took priority, said Margaret Byess, deputy superintendent.

Frank Putzu, a neighbor and SHA member, welcomed the compromise.

“From our perspective, it’s a good thing,” he said. “There is going to be a new field and track and we’re actually quite pleased about that. It ended up working out for us and the students at Hammond. That’s what they need. I think it was a good solution.”

Work on the field could begin as early as next month, Byess said. The project will cost about $1.9 million and should be finished by summer, she said.




  1. Not speaking specifically on the merits of this particular request, but having moved to Del Ray eight years ago, I can’t help but note that neighborhood groups and other associations throughout the DC area seem to be reflexively opposed to just about everything – from parking variances to waterfront development to lighting and beyond. How does anything get done with dozens of interest groups lined up at any given time to “study” and “input” everything to death?

  2. @autoexec.bat — Hope you aren’t preaching. The leaders of your community of Del Ray are infamous for sticking it to everyone else in town while protecting their own turf. Their crowning glory of no-ism was when DRCA dumbed down the density proposed at Potomac Yard years ago, a plan which would have included two (not one but TWO) Metro stations funded by the developers. Now the density is coming anyway AND taxpayers will have to foot some of the bill for the stations.