I think if I read one more apple pie Soapbox letter containing the words Palmer Trinity I’m going to go nuts. I haven’t written a Soapbox letter for awhile but I find myself compelled. I truly wish this school would just build their humongous addition. Let’s go, no more delays, get it done.
I have lived in Palmetto Bay for close to 50 years. Back in the day, there was no traffic on Old Cutler Road and land crabs still tried to cross it. There were still a few real pine trees, fruit stands used the honor system, and airplanes tried to ward off mosquitoes. It was a peaceful paradise.
I often think how lucky I am I don’t get run over by wild and out-of-control Palmer Trinity drivers racing up and down our neighborhood streets just before and after classes. My nerves have been fragile due to this ongoing problem for more than 22 years now.
How much clearer must the signal be to indicate that most people do not want athletic field lighting in our neighborhoods. This controversy has been disputed long enough. Amongst other major outcomes sports lighting attracts crowds, crowds create noise and traffic. This would be an invasion of my privacy, destroy more of the paradise to which I am accustom to, and eventually lower the value of my home.
At a recent Village of Palmetto Bay Council meeting, an item was discussed which was clearly directed at the Palmer Trinity School.
The discussion regarded placing a question on the November ballot adding a provision to the Charter that outdoor lighting would be prohibited at any religious facility or private school. As the village already has such a provision in its Ordinances, an obvious question arises: Why does this prohibition need to rise to the level of a charter provision? This is especially puzzling as the school has agreed not to seek outdoor lighting.
The answer to the question is that at a future election, a ballot question would be required to then remove such a prohibition from the charter, which would be much more difficult to accomplish than a mere change to an ordinance. While the council voted not to put the prohibition question on the ballot, there is a problem with the ordinance itself. Although public schools and village-owned uses can apply for what is tantamount to a “special exception” permit to allow outdoor lighting, religious facilities and private schools cannot.
Without discussing whether Palmer Trinity has been “targeted” by the council — which was actually asserted by a sitting council member — the ordinance, I believe, violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which has come to the public’s attention thanks to the “Hobby Lobby” Supreme Court decision. Among other protections, that law states: “No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution.”
While outdoor lighting is not a crucial issue and will not cause students to fail at life, Palmer Trinity deserves to be applauded for attempting to provide a solid education to as many of our children as possible, instead of being the victim of a long festering grudge and for having prevailed in court. The public does not deserve this type of political retribution, particularly when the issue also engenders personal animosity between our elected representatives.