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Residents Weigh In On City Manager's Decision to Keep Lights Off at U City Driving Range

Residents praised and others protested City Manager Lehman Walker's decision to permanently keep the lights off at the Ruth Park Driving Range.

The city manager's decision to permanently at the University City driving range brought out his supporters and opponents at Monday night's City Council meeting.

Ethan Schuman, a vocal critic of the Ruth Park Driving Range, commended City Manager Lehman Walker for his decision to keep the lights off. He said the range lighting had destroyed the tranquility of his neighborhood, turning it into "Six Flags." 

"I just want to give my personal thanks on behalf of my family to those responsible for turning the lights off," said Barry Mandelbaum, who lives across the street from the range.  "We're enjoying the evenings now." He said his family is once again experiencing the tranquility it expects from a residential neighborhood.

Schuman and Mandelbaum were members of a , that made recommendations to Walker about the range lighting.

Mr. Walker deserves praise for starting to deal with "the many wrongs of an ill conceived facility," said William Field, also a member of the driving range committee.

However, other golf committee members criticized Walker's action.

"I think this is a very bad decision," said driving range committee member Larry Mass.  It's very inconvenient he said, adding that the driving range is a tremendous asset to University City.

Golf committee member, Stanford Carp told council that the lights would be an issue during the next election. "We can guarantee that. It will be an issue for all councilmembers...and the mayor," he said.

A committee of driving range neighbors and golf enthusiast was formed at Walker's request, to look at complaints about the range, including issues with lighting, safety and noise.

Last week, Walker told University City Patch that he "determined it was in the best interest of the residents who live across the street to not turn the lights back on." Before the policy change, the range lights would stay on until 9:30pm, weather permitting.

Permanently turning off the range lights was not among the suggestions the committee sent to Walker. When U City Patch asked Walker why he implemented an action that was not one of the recommendations, he said "it was a decision that I made," and reiterated that he believed it was "in the best interest" of the neighbors.

The lights have been turned off now for several months. 

Lisa K May 11, 2011 at 02:38 PM
I find the decision to keep the lights turned off baffling. I live near Heman Park. There is noise from softball games until 10pm or later some nights, the fields are lit until late some nights, and parking can be a mess on the weekends around the park and in our neighborhood. But I would never dream of expecting the city manager to stop providing services to so many people in our city so that I would be less inconvenienced.
Kim May 11, 2011 at 08:59 PM
The residents seem to believe that they bought homes in a tranquil, residential neighborhood when in fact they bought homes on a busy street across from a public golf course. The course has clearly been underutilized for many years, and now thanks to the driving range it is beginning to realise its potential as a recreational and revenue-generating facility. I sympathize with the residents - I would not enjoy the extra activity either, but it is ridiculuous to buy a home across from a golf course and then complain when people play golf. The city went to great lengths to mitigate the disruptions caused by the driving range, including landscaping, position of lights, and turning them off at a very reasonable 9:30 p.m. That the City Manager would sacrfice the best interests of our community in favor of a few disgruntled residents baffles me too.
Tony May 12, 2011 at 03:38 AM
Lehman Walker does not pick one of the committee's recommendations and makes his own decision. I really hope this does not become a trend.
Steve May 12, 2011 at 12:46 PM
Wow a Six Flags- Where is the roller coaster? Where is the water park. The City can't seem to bring business into U-City, but they ran a Six Flags until Mr. Walker shut it down. A Six Flags? Really? Don't you think the complaints are exaggerated? I am amazed that "range lighting had destroyed the tranquility". Light destroyed the tranquility. I suppose when sunset hits at 8:30 this summer the place will be awful. I mean have you seen the sun lately? That thing is bright- really bright. But fear not, Lehman Walker has brought Darkness to the City and we should rejoice. The City will be better off now that Darkness reigns.
Michelle May 12, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Steve is right about the sun. It is really bright. :o)
beverly platt May 12, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Please put the lights back on at the golf course. Recreation time is at a premium and 9:30 P.M. is not unreasonable for the curfew. Beverly
Tom Payne May 12, 2011 at 07:38 PM
I think Mr. Walker should have to run for election. That is likely the only way people will get a voice in any of his decisions. There clearly are no checks and balances in what seems to be an environment of paying off political favors. Mr. Walker has entirely ignored the fact that it was the City Council that set the hours for the lights to be turned off on the driving range. It would appear that Mr. Walker will get by with blowing off City Council yet again.
Paul Gill May 13, 2011 at 05:10 PM
I see trouble brewing for the City Manager for deciding to be the judge, jury and executioner all on his own. Someone check his pockets to see if someone slipped the suggestion to permanetly turn off the lights in them on a special piece of green paper.
Tom Payne May 13, 2011 at 05:29 PM
I have to agree with Paul - at least about trouble brewing for Mr Walker for his unilateral decision after going through the sham of a carefully considered recommendation from a committee charged with this task. Better to have let the committee members take the heat for their recommendation- one way or the other. No one could have called their recommendation arbitrary or unilateral - even if they didn't like it.
Nick Frederiksen May 14, 2011 at 09:58 PM
I see potential for a slander suit against Paul LNU. The driving range has the lights turned off. Is the golf course shut down? Paul ,where were you when City Manager Julie Fier hid the settlement of a law suit against a City Employee. It was put under two different line items that did not reflect the nature of the cost. She refused to tell 2 or maybe the whole council how much the settlement was for, which line item it was under, and most importantly she, nor Mayor Adams, nor the City Attorney, nor any of the Council Members let the insurance company know about the suit. The City has a 15K deductible. It ended up costing the City 146K . I had to file a Sunshine Law request to get the info. The State Auditor made particular not of it. This happened under Mayor Adams and City Manager Julie F. How does that compare to a decision to turn off the lights a a recreational facility. Now that is something to get upset about. Your comment about the green piece of paper is unwarranted, unprofessional and gutless. Get some priorities straight or find out who was responsible for the 146K debacle. One more time: GUTLESS AND COWARDLY. Nick Frederiksen 314 346 0779
Elliot Wilson May 15, 2011 at 02:41 AM
Nick, I think that Paul was being a bit hyperbolic to prove a point, or to draw into question why our city manager would make a decision so out of touch with what his own commission recommended. It wasn't exactly in the best taste for Paul to accuse a city official of bribery, but you should consider his comment in the proper context. Paul is expressing frustration on a local news website, not actually making some sort of explicit statement accusing a governmental official of any misconduct, as you did in a different circumstance with your Sunshine Law request. It is a fine line, but one that we should all carefully look for before we accuse fellow Patch readers of being "gutless and cowardly."

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