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School Board Reviews Pros and Cons of Lighting Butler Field

darienlightsScarsdale Athletic Director Ray Pappalardi continued to seek approval for a proposal to install lights at Butler Field at Scarsdale High School at the Board of Education meeting on February 11, 2019. The state of the art LED lights are estimated to cost $800,000, $250,000 of which would be contributed by Maroon and White with the balance to be raised from the community. See the presentation here:

He provided a rationale for the installation of the lights, reported on community meetings, sought to dispel concerns expressed by neighbors and provided data on the number of games that are expected to be played under the lights at night.

Arguing for the lights, Pappalardi said that games under the lights enhance student athlete’s experience and provide “safe, community-building events” for the entire community.”

He said that the temporary diesel lights used at night games create “light, noise and air pollution” and are not sustainable.

Furthermore, comparable districts have state of the art LED lights.

Framing the conversation as a need, rather than a want, he said, “we cannot continue with the environmentally unsound diesel-powered lights,” and that” our athletes and community deserve lights.”

Pappalardi relayed the concerns he heard at two community meetings on January 22 and January 29, 2019 and explained how these concerns could be addressed. He said that the first meeting was with Neighborhood Association Presidents and the second was for residents, and both were well attended.

He said all were supportive of enhancing athletic experiences but had “strong concerns about change in quality of life.”

The neighbors raised issues about light pollution, the increase in the frequency of events, the scheduling of events, noise from the field, traffic around the school, parking on neighborhood streets and trash.

To mitigate these effects, neighbors had suggested the following:

-Adding trees and shrubs around the school to buffer light and noise.

-Installing a targeted PA or sound system that keeps the sounds within the field.

-Assigning staff to manage traffic and parking during night events.

-Making a sample of scheduled events to be reviewed by the community.

-Creating a community group to review the plans.

-Developing and enforce rules regarding the use of the lights.

In response, Pappalardi explained that the new LED lights feature “targeted illumination” and only light the field – not the surrounding areas.

He presented a sample schedule of the use of the lights that showed that the lights would only be used for 19 night games a year by Scarsdale High School teams.

About noise, Pappalardi said, “Music and announcements will be better monitored and directed toward the school,” and experts would be engaged to figure out how to “focus” sound within the stadium area.”

He suggested that traffic could be addressed by sending opponents directions on parking before games and by assigning staff to direct traffic and parking during events.

He said that his next step would be to convene a committee of residents, leaders of independent sports organization, Maroon and White, high school administrators and coaches to continue to refine the proposal.

He also said there was a need for the Board to define guidelines for recognizing donors to the project and decide how and where their names would appear.

Last he suggested that rules would need to be written to dictate the number of lighted events, determine a curfew, set the months of operation and decode how rules will be enforced.

In the discussion that followed, Lee Maude asked about the usage for teams from the independent sports organization and asked if they would be permitted to use the field. Ray said he had not spoken to the ISO’s about usage as yet but surmised they would use the field for practice, not games.

Pam Fuehrer asked, “Is there better temporary lighting available?”

Board President Scott Silberfein inquired about the timeline and asked how it would work with the development of a new donor recognition policy.

Chris Morin said, “The more usage it gets, the more successful the project is.” He also asked if the new lighting would be a “comprehensive” lighting plan for the areas around the field and includes the paths and parking lots around the field so that people could find their way to their cars and home after games.

Stuart Mattey said that the $800,000 estimate does not include lighting around the rest of the school campus.

Ray said, “My greatest concern is that this becomes divisive in the community. I think this should be a process where people are all heard and can get excited about it.” He also said that he thought the SEQRA process would give residents “peace of mind” about the environmental impact.

In public comments at the meeting, two residents spoke about the proposal.

Mark Michael said he has lived on Carstensen Road for 20 years and that he deals with the noise issue throughout the year. He said, when you add in the PA system, “it’s another level of noise.” He said they have to “keep going over to the school” to talk to people. He said though he favors enhancing athletics he wanted to enhance students “first and foremost.” He said he was worried about “creep” in the use of the field, and wanted to know “how much of a say we will have in setting up these rules.” He also said, “the objective is not to mitigate noise and environmental pollution. The purpose is to increase use and accessibility of the field. The full utilization is going to change the quality of life for my family and the neighborhood.” He ended by saying “I am not in favor of this ….Where we start now is not where we are going to be in ten years.”

The President of the Heathcote Association spoke on behalf of seven homeowners who live near the school. He said, “We would love to support the lights at Butler but only with the understanding that there will be policy to mitigate the effects of the lights…. Stop times of 9:30 at week, 10:30 on weekends is too late.”

About landscaping he said, “There needs to be screening around the entire school. Tree coverage has diminished. There needs to be a substantial investment in funds in trees and irrigation to mitigate lights and noise. This needs to be part of the budget and your policy before this gets done.”

He continued, “Noise is already serious. The use of PA systems is intrusive. We need a modern PA system.”

Discussing usage, he said, “Scheduling is clearly going to go up. Show an accurate schedule that includes the use of ISO’s. A realistic schedule needs to be developed and presented. The schedules are very speculative Full time lights year round are a different set of circumstances.”

He continued, “I heard we don’t expect to rent out the field – I would like to hear what that means. We would be very concerned about that. It needs to be understood that there will be severe impacts for those of us who live around the field.

In response to a question from Lee Maude about the lighting’s potential impact on the 2019-20 budget, Dr. Hagerman said, “I don’t think this is a rush. Butler lights is not a school district proposed project. For me it was interesting to hear the community’s concerns about using trees, and (the need for) additional lighting in the parking lot. We have to know the full scope of the problem. If we need to think about trees and other mitigation we have to find out if Maroon and White and donors if they are willing to fund that. In reality, there is no urgency.”

Watch the entire meeting here:

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