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You are here: Home Section Table Around Town Let There Be Light: Village Board Clears the Way for Lights at Butler Field
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Let There Be Light: Village Board Clears the Way for Lights at Butler Field

darienlightsWhile the Village Board’s Tuesday meeting agenda listed a pending vote on the Butler Field lighting project, Mayor Marc Samwick foreshadowed the result by in his opening remarks, stating, “The Butler Field Lights proposal is very familiar to many, as the community has been engaged in thorough and thoughtful dialogue nearly a year… The school district has been responsive to community as evidenced by the adoption of the ninth version of its field use policy that was introduced at last night’s board of education meeting. After at least 26 meetings and a comprehensive and responsive process run by the school district, it is time to advance this project forward.”

He then stated that if approved, the project would provide residents with “1) more focused and environmentally friendly lights; 2) an amplified sound policy that resulted from the district’s outreach process; and 3) an enhanced sound system that will minimize amplified sound beyond the field and track area.”

After hearing numerous comments from both adults and student athletes in support of the proposal (two residents were less enthusiastic, citing concerns about noise) the trustees voted 6-0 to approve the light installation, with Trustee Justin Arest abstaining. The board also outlined several conditions that the school district must meet, which included:

• Maintaining a “Field Use Hotline” or other method for the public to communicate field-use concerns to the school district;

• Establishing a “Butler Field Advisory Committee” to review any proposed changes with regard to the use of the field lights, which will include two representatives from village government, including the superintendent of Scarsdale Parks, Recreation and Conservation and a sitting member of the BOT (or other representative selected by the mayor);

• Ensuring that any exceptions or amendments to the district’s field use regulations are approved by the superintendent, or his/her designee, on a limited basis, when extenuating circumstances require;

• Limiting the number of lighted school district sports events to no more than two over the maximum number outlined in the field use regulations;

• Purchasing/installing lights that are substantially similar to the quantity, type, make, and model depicted and presented to the Scarsdale Planning Board;

• Preparing and installing an enhanced landscaping plan to help screen illuminated areas around the track, field and associated infrastructure; and

• Installing a amplified sound system that is substantially similar to the type, make, and model depicted and presented to the Scarsdale Planning Board.

The Official Tally
When addressing the resolution to approve the lighting project, the trustees did not have the opportunity to publicly debate the issue. Instead, each board member expressed his or her thoughts when casting their votes, rather than simply saying yea or nay.

Trustee Arest began by saying, “Who can’t get behind garnering an advanced sense of community and finding a way for more parents with demanding work schedules to have the flexibility to attend events? And, obviously, the lights would provide that, and I think that’s amazing.” He then read from the Planning Board’s recommendations on the project: “The record before the planning board was limited to the school board’s presentation and comments by neighbors. The information did not include studies of the impact that might be expected from a substantial change usage. Therefore, the Planning Board was unable to evaluate or recommend regulations… respecting use of the field and lights that would alter the current level of usage.”

Arest went on, “I think this is a land use issue… Why do we have land use boards? Why do we have the code that enforces our municipal zoning? …(Because) structure and processes… give us the best chance for an objective, fair outcome… I’m not sure why we didn’t listen to the Planning Board; I’m not sure why we didn’t meet to discuss next steps. And, I’m not really sure that this resolution… provides any protections beyond what the school board has already promised… Am I saying there shouldn’t be lights? No, of course not… What I’m saying is there a better way we could have done this… where everybody could win?”

He provided an idea about how the school district could move forward exactly as planned but need Planning Board approval for any changes that are less restrictive than the original regulations. He went on to say he appreciates the outreach efforts of the district as well as the generosity of Maroon and White and its donors. After, Arest stated his fondness of public-private partnerships and that we should always try to provide our children with the best tools. He concluded by saying, “I can’t vote against this, because I see the benefits of the lights to the community… but at the same time, there’s no way, in good conscience, I can vote for this resolution so I will abstain.”

Trustee Lena Crandall said, “Trustee Arest has a very thoughtful way of looking at most any situation, always on top of process – which is important to our democracy.” She continued, “I’ve given this a lot of thought because I do see the lights as a change that will materially affect the area around our community around the school… the games, the noise… will have an impact. Everyone sees that… and there will be unintended consequences.” After discussing the benefits of evening sports events and the need for a skilled landscape architect and suitable landscape plan, Crandall stated, “I’m putting a lot of faith in the Butler Field Advisory Committee… this will be a process where all of us will need to be flexible… with the intention of being good neighbors. With that, I vote yes.”

Trustee Jonathan Lewis said, “Trustee Arest deserves our respect for taking a courageous stand and explaining… his views on the subject. It’s not easy to lean against the wind… With regard to this process itself, I think it has been transparent, and balanced, and thorough, and respectful. The conversations have reflected good policy making, and good debate and analysis.” He continued, “Also I’d like to note that there are important things going on here that transcend the Butler Field lights. I think that there have been important new pathways of collaboration between the Village government and the Board of Education. The Butler Field Advisory Committee, in fact, creates a level of jointness between how the Village and the school district can work together… I (also) want to say how much I respect all my neighbors here who have come to express their views (and) how much I admire the spirit, conviction, and vigor of the viewpoints expressed by our youth… for those reasons, I feel comfortable voting yes.”

Trustee Jane Veron stated, “Over the course of many months, there has been extensive conversation, analysis, input, iteration, rethinking, iterating again, and, finally, tonight a resolution. The Board of Education, school administration, neighbors, Maroon and White, parents, students, Village staff, and the Village Planning board have all weighed in on this proposal. Together they refined the plans for lights, sound, screening, and scheduling. At this point, I believe it is time to move forward.” She went on, “I’m always sensitive to neighbors’ needs, and take very seriously our responsibility to serve all residents. I feel confident that the proposed guidelines, along with the dedicated contact number and newly commissioned Butler Field Advisory Committee… will provide ample opportunities for issues that might arise to be addressed, and I vote aye.”

Trustee Rochelle Waldman said, “After careful consideration of the many intricacies of the question at hand, I do believe that, with prudent and judicious management of the field lights, there will be significant benefits to the community. The opportunity for evening athletics will go a long way to promote school spirit and be yet another reason our school district is among the strongest in the nation.” She continued, “I do recognize the significant concerns of neighbors, but feel comfortable that, with state-of-the-art equipment and parameters limiting use, the field lights can be used with minimal intrusiveness to the surrounding community. I vote yes.”

In casting the last “yea” vote, Mayor Samwick said, “I want to reiterate the importance of the listening, and the interaction, and the collaboration that went into this. We make better decisions when we do that as a community. In this instance, we had at least 26 touch points with the community; we had nine versions of the use policy that were well thought-out, that were responsive… I’d like to thank everyone who supported the process… and I’d also like to vote aye.”

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