Portable lights approved at DHS
In Darien, it's lights out at 7 p.m.
During a special meeting Friday afternoon at town hall, the Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously approved the installation of six, 20-foot portable light fixtures at Darien High School's Stadium Field for November practices by four DHS fall sports teams and the Darien Junior Football League.
However, they must be turned off no later than 7 p.m.
That's a half hour sooner than the DJFL had requested. But the commission wanted to remain "consistent" with the recently approved DJFL application for lights at town hall's Holahan Field, where the lights are turned off at 7 p.m.
The commission acknowledged the tight window the DJFL will have to practice with the DHS teams leaving the field at 6 p.m., which is the same time the DJFL will start practice. In addition, the DJFL will need to end practice by 6:45 p.m., so that all members are off the field when the lights are turned off.
P&Z Secretary Joseph Spain said the coaches of the DJFL and the DHS teams will need to coordinate an "efficient" way of transitioning on and off the field.
"Consistency needs to be maintained," Spain said. "They need to work out an efficient way of coming on and coming off the field. Shutting down both locations at the same time is critical here."
"I'm pleased that we got lights at the high school and at town hall," he said. "The time on the field isn't what we had hoped for. The extra half hour would have helped. But we'll do whatever it takes to make it work. I'm trying to look at it in a positive light -- the lights are very beneficial to us and we're pleased to have them."
The DJFL will have access to the field from 6 to 7 p.m., for weekday practices from Nov. 9 to 20 for a total of 10 days and a maximum of 10 hours. The teams cannot use the lights for games or on weekends. The league's special permit expires on Nov. 20.
"Unfortunately, this is a test period for the DJFL," said Albu, whose league was granted two lit practices for a total of three hours at DHS last year. "We're going to have to prove that the test meets all requirements the P&Z has put down. Unfortunately, this is an annual thing for us, but we'll keep pursuing it."
Albu said it's possible the league will be able to "piggyback" the DHS special permit, which lasts through the 2011 fall season.
The DHS football, field hockey and boys and girls soccer teams were granted the use of the temporary lights up until 6 p.m. for the next three fall sports seasons, beginning the first Monday in November through the end of the football season, which may extend into the first few days of December if the team qualifies for the state tournament.
Like the DJFL, the DHS teams cannot use the lights for games or on weekends.
Similar to last year's trial, the commission "strongly" recommended that DHS and the DJFL hire "professional experts" to analyze the effects the lights have on the neighborhood. Their findings would be included in a report that will also contain any complaints from neighbors and what changes could be made to minimize the effects the lights have on adjacent properties. Unlike last year, however, the lights will be electric-powered and not diesel-fuel generated to reduce the amount of noise. The report must be submitted to the commission no later than 60 days after the conclusion of the season.
"What the commission is looking for in both approvals is a report at the conclusion of the use of the lights," P&Z Director Jeremy Ginsberg told the Darien News this week.
"We're looking to know how it all went. Among the recommendations is to bring someone in with professional expertise with light and noise who can provide information on the effect on adjacent properties. This way, the commission has a better understanding of how everything went."