Four years into the redevelopment of their local high school’s soccer pitch, residents living alongside Applewood Heights Secondary in Mississauga say the noise and constant daylight-like illumination are too much to bear.
In 2018, the Peel District School Board carried out a plan to revitalize and repurpose the field, replacing it with bright new turf and multiple soccer pitches lit from above by several 80-foot tall stadium-style lighting rigs.
They also worked out a deal with a company known as Community Sports Partners who would be responsible for renting out slots of time on the pitch for groups to use for pickup and league games and practices, effectively eliminating the free use of the field by members of the local community.
Aside from a pause during the restrictions implemented in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents say they are constantly exposed to yelling, swearing and whistles, and that their properties are enveloped with light pollution.
Showing Global News a video she took from inside her home during a game, Lecia Forse, an area resident since 1986, shakes her head at the shouting and hollering coming from just beyond her backyard fence.
She said she likes to enjoy the gazebo, surrounded by greenery in her backyard, but hasn’t been able to lately.
“I have two young grandchildren, and all they hear is the F-word and the S-word,” said Forse.
“You just hear the noise, screaming and the whistle,” adds her neighbour Roman Wozniak, who also claims people using the field have have urinated on his fence.
When they take their complaints to the Peel District School Board or the city, though, they say they’ve been stonewalled.
“Nobody wants to speak to us,” said Wozniak.
Every resident whose home directly lines the field seems to have their own album of pictures showing just how intrusive the bright white beams can be; shining into their bedrooms and over their backyards. Forse says the light is so bright she can read in her backyard without even having to turn on her own lights.
When the work was first done, the lights stayed on until 11:00 pm, regardless of whether the field was actually in use. Getting the City to turn them off at 10:00 pm is just about the only win residents have had in their dealings with the city and school board over the last four years.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the Peel District School Board told Global News the Board “has had many meetings with this group of residents. They’ve had a delegation with our school board and with the City of Mississauga. We will continue to collaborate with the City of Mississauga and connect with local communities on the matter.”
The problem, residents say, is they feel they are shut down at every turn. They say it has been this way since day one, with no prior consultation.
“We did not hear about this until after all plans were finalized,” says Athena Tagidou, member of the Applewood Hills & Heights Residents’ Association.
“Then we had them tell us something was happening in our area. And we had to take action.”
Tagidou accuses the board of doing the same thing to a group of residents living near Heart Lake Secondary in Brampton, the site of another revitalized, brightly-lit soccer field rented out by a private partner.
Global News visited the Heart Lake field after 10 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and found the lights brightly shining, even though no one was using the pitch.
Those living near Applewood Heights Secondary School say they know people will accuse them of NIMBYism. They have already heard it.
Still, they insist you can’t know how bad a disruption it is until you’ve lived in their homes.
“I just want them to come for one week living here,” Wozniak challenged critics, as well as City and PDSB staff.
“It could happen to anybody. Anybody’s property,” added Forse.
“I love seeing people exercise; I love seeing them in the sports … there’s a place and time for everything, but this was a lack of judgment, a lack of communication with the residents.”
The residents’ association says it has considered taking the city and school board to court but that it comes with a hefty price tag.
To make things better, they say officials would have to start by limiting permitted use of the field to six days a week, giving them at least one day a week for peace and quiet. They would also like to have the lights turned off and the field empty by 9 p.m.
In a statement Mallory Cunnington, a spokesperson for the City of Mississauga, told Global News city hall has written to the PDSB urging them to make sure residents’ concerns are being addressed.
“The scope of re-development of the Applewood Heights SS did not require a City-led community consultation,” writes Cunnington.
“In addition, this field is located entirely on school board property and the City of Mississauga was not involved in the construction or ongoing operation of the track and field facility.
Bylaw enforcement investigated complaints lodged from these residents but at the time of the assessments, it was determined that no infractions had occurred. Enforcement will continue to investigate complaints received from residents should they arise.”