Darien officials want late-night noise tested at Darien High School's field, but who will pay?

Darien defeated Brien McMahon 47-0 in their first game at the school under the lights in a FCIAC football game on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 in Darien, Connecticut.
Darien defeated Brien McMahon 47-0 in their first game at the school under the lights in a FCIAC football game on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 in Darien, Connecticut.Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticut Media

DARIEN — As use of the Darien High School field is set to be expanded, officials are considering requiring sound level testing over a six-month period to appease neighborhood complaints about late-night disturbances.

But who will pay for it is still a point of debate.

Director of Planning and Zoning Jeremy Ginsburg told members of the planning commission earlier this month that the town’s biggest concern was not the lights, but rather the public announcement system.

“Although most people could see the lights in the distance, the noise was much more noticeable,” Ginsburg said during the meeting.

Under the current agreement, lights must be off at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, extended to 10 p.m. for Friday night games. The PA system is to be used solely for sports games and must be turned off by 10 p.m. 

An updated special permit would expand use to 9 p.m. on weeknights for team practice or games and add Saturday night games until 10 p.m. The lights would be capped at 50 events — excluding athletic practice — though the PA system would still only be allowed during games. 

Zoning Vice Chairman George Reilly proposed that the permit require the Board of Education to conduct sound level tests at five events over the next six months targeted at 45 decibels, comparable to a humming refrigerator.

Reilly acknowledged that the games will likely exceed 45 decibels -- the noise pollution limit, according to state statute -- but testing would create a better guideline to adhere as closely as possible to normal volume in the residential zone.

Timing and locations for the tests would be coordinated with the Planning and Zoning Commission for consistency.

The tests should be paid for by the Board of Education because, since, Reilly said, the board would be the main beneficiary of any nighttime games or events.

“If the Board of Education has to do five tests, I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” he said. “It’s not some materially large expense they’ll have to do.”

Newly appointed commission member Michael Nedder disagreed, saying that neighbors should bear the burden of proof on whether the level of noise is excessive at late hours by conducting the tests themselves. 

“If this is really a real problem for you, OK, spend some money on it,” he said. “Then there's a mechanism for them to present it and say here, we did the testing.”

Darien Public Schools Superintendent Alan Addley said he’ll “wait and see” how the Planning and Zoning Commission votes but had no further comment.