Should the town allow temporary lights to be 30 feet high?
That’s the question on the table for the Planning & Zoning Commission, which will decide on Tuesday, July 24, whether to change the town’s zoning regulations.
Public support has generally been in favor of the action, which was brought forth by the Darien Junior Football League and supported by the Board of Education, although four neighbors of the high school have written letters in opposition to the proposal.
Commissioners hashed out the new regulation at its recent meeting, suggesting a few changes to the verbiage of the proposed change drafted by the football league. One change, as earlier suggested by John Sini, the DJFL lights chairman, was to limit 30-foot temporary lights to town-owned properties only.
Permanent lights would also not be allowed above 20 feet. In addition, the commission has suggested the DJFL find the most unobtrusive position of the lights, by angling them downward and using combinations of height, to maximize field visibility while minimizing impact on neighbors. The league would then create a schematic noting the locations of the stanchions and the angles of the lights, which could then be used for future seasons. These positions would be amended as technologies improved.
Neighbors have complained that the lights are in violation of town regulations, but the commission has allowed this because of the temporary nature of the lights, which would only be allowed to be used for 30 hours in the fall, according to Fred Conze, P&Z chairman. Arborvitae trees were also planted by the football league, and are expected to grow to 20 feet in the next few years to help shield neighbors from the lights.
Anyone who wanted to put up temporary lights at 30 feet would still need to file for a special permit. The commission is also expected to vote on the football league’s special permit and the schools’ permit on Tuesday.
A proposed change to the regulations includes a provision that would require an applicant seek out the best possible technologies to minimize light spillage into neighboring properties. Conze suggested that as a condition of approval of the special use permit, the football league and neighbors could provide a report after the lights are no longer used to give feedback.
Commissioners would also be present at the field to observe the lights and see for themselves what kind of impact the lights have. Tests in the past that raised lights to 30 feet did not involve angling the lights down, as the lights were too hot to move, school officials said. The angled-down basis, however, was a large part of the football league’s argument that raising the lights would improve visibility on the field and decrease light spillage onto neighbors’ properties.
P&Z meets at Town Hall on Tuesday, July 24, at 8, to vote on the regulation change.