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High school temporary lights considered success in first year

The inaugural report detailing usage of six temporary lights at the Darien High School stadium showed they were successful, but one neighbor complained about the amount of light, according to a report from Chris Manfredonia, the Darien athletic director.

"The high school administration reported that this lights project provided an important opportunity for both the Darien High School football and field hockey teams to practice under safer late fall conditions and to prepare each team more properly for late season games," Manfredonia told the Board of Education at its Tuesday meeting.

As part of a five-year permit the Planning and Zoning Commission granted in October 2013, Darien High School reported how often the lights were used and for how long. The lights were used 33 times for approximately 48 hours between Oct. 16 and Dec. 11, according to Manfredonia's report.

One complaint was filed regarding the lights from Paul Michalski, who lives on Middlesex Road.

"As is clear, the problems with the installed portable field lights that have been reported by neighbors for the past several years continue unremedied," Michalski wrote in an Nov. 24 email to Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Ginsberg, Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning David Keating, Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Sue Cameron and Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Steve Olvany.

Those problems, Michalski said, include a "landing strip" effect of the lights through the trees between his home and the high school; reflections of the light off windows; and the reflections of the light banks making two banks of lights "quite visible."

However, plywood is placed on the windows of the school cafeteria and press box when the lights are in use in order to reduce the glare from the windows.

"As in past years, the lights remain in violation of the standards for lighting set forth in Darien's zoning regulations and the special permit for the lights," Michalski wrote.

The zoning regulations regarding lights state that "the source of the lights shall be concealed from surrounding residential properties," something that Michalski said has not happen.

"You can see the light bulbs and you can see the direct reflections of the bulbs," Michalski said. "That glare has been and continues to be a violation."

The issue of the reflection off the light banks will be addressed in fall 2015, according to the report, by angling the lights at a more "downward direction, hopefully limited the reflective glare seen by neighbors."

Along the north side of the field, pine trees were planted to reduce the amount of light that reaches the residential area, but Michalski said nothing has been done for the residents who live along the east side of the field. He added that the light would be worse for people living along the north side of the field on Hummingbird Lane, who are much closer to the high school than those who live on Middlesex Road.

"The neighbors have kind of accepted without pushing or objecting to the temporary lights because it's only for practices and a short period of time, but we're still frustrated that (the Planning and Zoning Commission doesn't) do things to address the glare that's happening," Michalski said.

Ginsberg said no violations have been issued to the high school regarding the lights. Read Full Article 

Part of the adopted resolution from the Planning and Zoning commission, the lights must be turned off at 6 p.m., unless the Darien Junior Football League is using the field after the high school team has practice.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, in her State of the Town address, said she hopes the Planning and Zoning Department and the Board of Education will continue discussions regarding the installation of permanent lights at the high school.

"Personally, I believe, if managed properly, this could be a wonderful community amenity but it must be a community discussion with due consideration and respect given to all stakeholders," Stevenson said.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews

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