Plans to expand athletic facilities at were approved Monday by the Dearborn City Plan Commission, but not without debate from nearby residents.
According to the City Plan Department, the Catholic school in west Dearborn came before the commission in 1997 and had a site plan approved. But improvements the school hopes to have in place by the fall of 2013 required a Special Land Use approval.
Those plans include the expansion and shifting of the school’s athletic fields; adding two lanes to the outdoor track; adding bleachers to both sides; and building several small outdoor structures to be used for team meetings, storage and concessions.
The biggest of those changes–expanding the field–would allow the school to hold all its home football games in that space. Currently, most varsity games take place on Crestwood High School’s field in Dearborn Heights.
But it’s just that change that had several residents stepping forward against the expansion.
Frank Guido, chair of DC’s Field Development Committee and president of the Parish Council, explained that the changes would help the school–and parish–grow.
“We’re down to one (Catholic) high school in this community,” he said. “We want to remain viable and we want to continue to grow and be positive influence in neighborhood and in the community. We need to grow. This is very material to our survival where we are at.”
Residents of the area expressed concern over the extra noise and traffic issues that the expansion could create.
“We’re very concerned about the proposed changes,” said Roger Park, a resident of Nightingale Street.
Among his and his wife’s concerns are increased foot and vehicle traffic, parking, privacy, and lighting.
“This is more than a modification; It’s a huge expansion,” Park added. “Divine Child has been a great neighbor … but I think this is a little over the top.”
Guido maintained that the fields and their use would be no different than any of Dearborn’s three public high schools.
Sam Salame, also a resident of Nightingale and a former resident of the area near Fordson High, said that when that school upgraded their fields for football, “There was a lot more traffic, a lot more speeding, and fights.”
“They’re high school kids,” he added. “That’s how high school kids act.”
Several neighbors said they were concerned about kids and parents disrupting the neighborhood during sporting events with speeding, parking in neighborhoods, and disrupting the area
Guido assured that “If there’s ever a concern from a neighbor, Divine Child will take care of the problem.”
However, he added that his purpose before the commission was not to debate with residents, so long as what the school is planning is within the scope of the law.
Commission Chair Gary Errigo agreed, and suggested to residents that if they didn’t want to deal with the issues of living near a high school, they should have chosen to live elsewhere.
The plan passed unanimously.
Guido assured residents–and the commission–that DC has always been, and will continue to be a good neighbor.
“This is an enhancement that will be a benefit to all individuals in that neighborhood,” he said. “This strengthens a school in that area, so it certainly could not be considered in a negative way.”
DC will undertake a major fundraising effort to help pay for the updates. Guido said they hope to break ground next spring and reopen the field in the fall of 2013.