A zoning board in Madison, Wis., voted unanimously Thursday to deny Edgewood High School the right to host games on a field it updated with synthetic turf in 2015.
As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, the city gave the private school two violation notices during games held last spring, including a girls' soccer game. The notices came after zoning administrator Matt Tucker said the school’s master plan prohibits the school from hosting competitions on the field. Wording in the school’s master plan describes the intended use of the field as being for athletic practices and gym classes — without mentioning competitions.
Alderman Tag Evers questioned why the school would leave out one of the most “obvious” uses of the field, and list only gym classes and practices, adding that it was likely left out intentionally to make the master plan easier to pass in a neighborhood that has become frustrated by noise from the field.
At the meeting, city residents complained that the number of games played on the field have increased tenfold since the field was updated in 2015. Tensions have also escalated amid a school proposal to build a stadium around the field.
Matt Lee, an attorney representing the school, said it was "troubling and unfair" that Tucker "issued a notice of violation deeming it illegal to play a girl's soccer game on a soccer field." He said the school has almost always had competitions there, and it should continue to be allowed to do so.
"We had been playing games openly for 90 years," Lee said.
In its master plan, the school is required to explain the intended use of any spaces, Tucker said. Any uses that are not covered need additional approval from the city plan commission. Since competitions are not stated anywhere in the plan, Tucker said, the school needs to go through this approval process.
Lee said simply labeling the space as an “athletic field” makes it clear that its intended use includes athletic competitions. Lee also said the space is zoned as a recreational area, which means it should be able to be used for athletic games. He pointed to the University of Wisconsin's Natatorium and Goodwin Softball Complex, both of which are zoned recreationally though they host intercollegiate competition.
But board members agreed, 4-0, with Tucker’s interpretation of city law. The members looked through Edgewood’s master plan and said they did not find sufficient language explaining that the fields were intended to be used for games.