After reading NBCSanDiego.com’s story about the Poway family that was facing the prospect of dismantling a Little League baseball field built on their private property, Poway city councilmember Jim Cunningham sent us this note:
“As the newest member on the Poway City Council I was unaware of the problem with the ball field... After a preliminary review of the issue, absent facts to the contrary, the Weisz family can expect my full support when this matter comes back to council. Although I would not support building a Petco Park on our beautiful countryside, I wholeheartedly do not support the notion that the Weisz's building a ball field for their kids and friends, as they have it designed, is a non-conforming use. Poway is all about great families and an unparallel[ed] quality of life. The Weisz's are a perfect example of a family dedicated to their children and their community.”
Jonathan Weisz built the regulation-size Little League field near a pasture on his land, primarily for his baseball-loving 12-year-old triplet sons. Weisz lets neighborhood kids play on the field—including the sons of former major leaguers Phil Nevin and David Justice.
The city had said the field is a “recreational facility.” Weisz’s lawyer calls it an “accessory use” of private property. Poway city councilmember Merrilee Boyack believes the field “is not an appropriate use of a residential area.” The field was built without a permit; a “minor development review permit” costs $479.
Cunningham says media exposure has caused his phone to ring off the hook. “Kids need this kind of access to fields—there’s limited space out here,” he says. “Baseball is a big thing here. I know people who have batting cages on their property. Jonathan Weisz’s heart is in the right place. He’s not selling hotdogs or doing tournaments. He’s an asset, not a liability.”
Cunningham believes the part-time-status city council will find consensus to keep the ball field. Due to the recent death of Poway mayor Mickey Cafagna, there are currently four voting members of the council. Former deputy mayor Don Higginson is filling out Cafagna’s term, and the council is in the process of choosing a replacement to fill out the term, which ends in 2010.
The Poway council chose to pick a new member rather than spend $210,000 on a special election, says Cunningham. If a council vote deadlocks at 2-2 on a replacement, that could force a special election for the post.
When the Weisz ball park issue comes up—slated for some time this summer—Cunningham believes the council will be back to five members.
Ron Donoho, formerly executive editor of "San Diego Magazine," is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com who covers local news, sports, culture and happy hours.