High school football field lights are on the table again.
The 2011 fall sports season marked the last of a three-year deal approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission to allow for limited use of six temporary stadium lights at the high school. The Board of Education discussed renewing a three-year deal with the town, and Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Falcone said he expects to have a proposal for the school board by early March.
Fears that the temporary lights would give way to pressure from advocates for permanent lighting seem assuaged by the administration’s correspondence with neighbors, Falcone said. In a letter to Falcone, Bud Raleigh, a neighbor who has been vocal regarding his concern over the lights, stated he was happy with the current set-up.
It “seems the lights may be somewhat less intrusive this year, and we are certainly grateful for any progress,” Raleigh wrote.
However, field users, such as the Darien Junior Football League and other fall teams, can only use a portion of the field because P&Z limited the height of the lights to 20 feet. Falcone said the schools ran tests at 30-feet which field users said allowed them to use the entire field.
“There are considerations that still need to be addressed regarding maximum height of the light poles and the dates and duration that lights could be on,” Falcone said.
Raising the lights, and lengthening their operational duration, might stoke the opposition’s fire. Limiting “20-foot lights to weekdays in a few weeks in November… is critical in maintaining peace within the neighborhood we share,” Raleigh said. “I trust that no one is contemplating placing the lights higher than 20 feet for more than one night test each season…”
In 2011, the lights were on from Nov. 7 to Nov. 11 for a total of 24 hours. The permit allows the schools to use the lights beginning on the first weekday after Daylight Saving Time ends, and lasts until the fall sports seasons are over. Lights are supposed to be turned off by 6, although the junior football league can to play until 7 under a separate P&Z agreement.
Falcone said there have been no noise complaints because the lights are hard-wired and not generator-powered. The schools have also placed curtains on windows to prevent glare on neighboring homes, and considered attaching shields to lights to prevent ambient dispersal, although a consultant informed the schools that they would need to double the number of lights to get the same luminosity from shielded lights as they do now with six unshielded lights.
Lights on the high schools stadium field has been a longtime source of contention between the school and its neighbors since the original proposal for permanent lights in 2006. A compromise was reached with the neighbors for a pilot program of practice lights in 2008. The school board will discuss in the coming weeks whether to update the details of its permit with P&Z or submit an application with the current terms.