ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council could vote Wednesday on how to proceed on installing 30-foot field lights at Leo Mullen Sports Park and who will pay for it — the city or the soccer organization that has wanted them.
But a group of nearby residents are opposed to the plans altogether, arguing the lights would be a nuisance and potentially harm an adjacent wetland.
The council will consider an agenda item that outlines three potential options for starting the process of amending the Encinitas Ranch Specific Plan to allow lights at the park and obtaining the permits for the lighting.
The agenda item also gives the council the option of the city or the Encinitas Soccer Club covering the cost for the specific plan amendment and the major use permit.
According to the staff report, if the city initiated the amendment process it would cost $125,000, and the city would have to find the funding to cover the cost. If the soccer club were to pay for it, it would cost more than $150,000.
The Encinitas Soccer Club has lobbied the city for more than a year to install artificial turf and permanent lighting at the soccer field, which serves as the organization’s primary practice field. Currently, the rules governing the Encinitas Ranch neighborhood prohibit lights at the park, which the soccer club, of about 1,700 participants, says reduces practice time.
After nearly a year of delays, the city proceeded with installing the artificial turf and completed it in September.
But the lighting has proven to be more complex, as neighbors and residents have questioned if installing lights would trigger an election under Proposition A, and whether the impacts of the lighting needed additional environmental scrutiny.
City Attorney Glenn Sabine issued an opinion in March that a public vote wouldn’t be required as long as the field lights were below 30 feet.
In recent weeks, however, a group of homeowners in the subdivision directly adjacent to the park have formed an opposition campaign calling on the city to abandon the lighting plan.
On the group’s website, nolightsplease.com, the group contests that residents of Cambria at Encinitas Ranch were told that Leo Mullen would never have field lights because the specific plan prohibited them.
Adding field lights, the group says, will increase field use by 400 percent, knot up traffic and parking and cause light to cascade into their backyards.
In previous meetings, concerned residents have also questioned whether the field lights would disturb the wetlands that run along the field’s edge and said that this concern alone warrants the city to perform a full-blown environmental impact report, which would study the impacts that the lights would have on the surrounding environment.
According to the staff report, it would take the city 18 months to complete the specific plan amendment and major use permit if the city had to perform the more stringent environmental study. Without it, the process still would take about a year.
The Soccer Club, meanwhile, said that it needs the light to continue to keep pace with the growing demand and limited field availability elsewhere.
The meeting is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Council chambers, 505 S. Vulcan Ave.