Supporters Implore Village Board to Approve Butler Field Lights, Assessment Grievances Complete

studentatheltesStudent Athletes at Village HallThe start of the school year brought another wave of public support for new lights at Butler Field during this week’s village board meeting. Anticipating the September 25 school and village government’s meeting to discuss the Scarsdale Planning Board’s recommendations, student athletes and parents lined up to implore Scarsdale officials to approve the proposed upgrades to the high school athletic field.

First up was student athlete Sophia Franco (65 Fox Meadow Road), who said, “A lot of our competitors are able to use their field space (more often) because they have lights. If we get the lights, it would be really helpful for a lot of the programs that use (Butler Field) and allow us to practice more and, hopefully, build (those) programs.”

krohnOliver KrohnOliver Krohn (2 Popham Lane), who plays lacrosse for SHS, followed: “For parents who work late and can’t get to school… the lights would open up a new world. They wouldn’t have to get off work earlier or change their schedules to get to games.”

Tom Reynolds (54 Franklin Road), a member of SHS’ football team, stated that the lights would provide more flexibility for student athletes’ schedules. “(If) we can practice in the evening, we can get our homework done beforehand, and not just go home, eat, and sleep. Not having to do homework when we’re tired would be incredibly helpful.”

Sophie Carroll, captain of SHS’ field hockey and softball teams, said, “Having lights in late October and as we head into post season would be greatly beneficial for our team to get more practice time in. The days start to become very short and weather becomes an issue… Giving us lights would give us the ability to safely prepare for playoffs and be more competitive.” She continued, “There are a few times per year we would need lights – possibly late September/early October, a few practices in late fall, preseason for softball, and one or two field hockey games per season.”

Coby Rozencwaig, a SHS senior and lacrosse player, then added, “Nothing is more exciting that a game under the lights. I think it would be tremendous for our school and our school spirit.”

Reynolds’ teammate, Chris Saenger (30 Vernon Road), followed, “I think the lights can greatly improve not only our (football) team, but all the other teams; we can extend our practice time and game hours. I don’t think it’s fair that a couple of families nearby hinder this extremely beneficial addition.”

Then, it was time for the adults to speak. Kate Conlan (212 Madison), representing Maroon and White said, “The discussion about the lights has been going on for a year but, honestly, it’s really been going on for a decade.” She then outlined the steps the board of education has taken in vetting the proposal and considering community input. “This was not a rushed decision.” Conlan reiterated the BOE’s position that permanent lights would provide considerable benefit; a high-quality, environmentally sound system has been selected; additional steps have been taken to alleviate negative noise impacts; and additional natural screening around the field will assist in offsetting any drawbacks of the new installation.

Conlan concluded her remarks by saying that the new lights and sound system “will deliver profound benefits to the wide Scarsdale community… while improving conditions for nearby community members who voice concerns that the usage of the town’s only turf field would negatively impact their own desires… To place substantial additional constraints on this project... cannot be done without creating substantial detriments to the benefits these lights were meant to provide.”

Claire Paquin (13 Harcourt Road) then commented, “I bought my property on top of the high school; that was a very conscious decision. From my daughter’s window we see the lights (at night) -- a good solution? Blackout shades.” Everybody (on Harcourt) knew when they bought their properties where they were… There is no traffic on Harcourt Road. Increasing practice (time) is not going to increase traffic. What it is going to do is make our teams better.” She added, “If we put restrictive covenants on (the use of lights) -- say until 8:00 pm -- the fields will be useless in the spring. The sun sets at 8:00 pm in May. Why would we have lights?”

nicholasSteve NicholasStephen Nicholas, after noting he was a graduate of Scarsdale High School, said, “The sense of community we have now would be enhanced simply by allowing siblings watch their brothers and sisters play sports in some evening games, and not always having to miss them because they’re attending their own practices. I think that’s important as far as developing community and family.” He added, “We need to do everything we can to enhance and support athletic activity as obesity goes up; and, we know that the single most significant factor in the reduction of drug use is participation in athletics at the high school level… We are obliged to encourage this participation.” Nicholas wrapped up by stating, “We don’t want to get our neighbors upset but, at the same time, I think the fear mongering that’s going on – that a 9:00 or 8:00 game is going to change people’s lives -- has to be treated with some practicality.”

Rippy Phillipps, who oversees Scarsdale Youth Football, approached the microphone next, carrying a poster commemorating the first Scarsdale game played under the lights. “Congratulations Scarsdale,” he said, “we still have the same lights we had in 2001.” Phillips then spoke about his family’s experience living near both an athletic field and firehouse in Scarsdale. “We were about 25 yards from Crossway Field… I don’t remember (anyone) complaining about a fire alarm at night. I don’t remember (anyone) ever complaining about the old guys playing baseball at 7:15 in the morning at Crossway. They were yelling; they were screaming; they were having fun. It didn’t matter. We lived across the field; that was part of the shtick. They were entitled to play.” Phillips continued, “It’s not about six families that are self-motivated; it’s about what we’re doing for our kids.”

Matt Conlan (212 Madison Road) concluded the commentary by further justifying the purpose of the proposal: “The opportunity to be on (the field) until 9:00 at night is not the intention; we want the flexibility to have lights available until 9:00 on those nights it’s needed… It’s really the option and flexibility of having (them) when our fields are closed, so our athletes don’t’ have to go days or weeks without practice. It’s also allowing for youth sports to get on the field when their fields are closed. The goal is flexibility, rather than volume… The benefits to the community are so obvious.”

So, stay tuned. A quick look at the Scarsdale Planning Board’s recommendations to the village board seems to indicate that the new lights are a go. The group acknowledged the benefits presented by the proposed lighting and sound systems, and determined that they were improvements over current infrastructure. However, the planning board did acknowledge that it was unable to make recommendations regarding usage, since the installation will lead to increased activity at Butler Field. The proverbial ball now is in the trustees’ court.

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Freightway Update
The village will accept development proposals for the Freightway project this coming Monday, September 16. The proposals will be evaluated and compared by Scarsdale staff and trustees, and consulting firm AKRF, and two finalists eventually will be chosen by a selection committee comprised of Mayor Marc Samwick, Trustee Justin Arest, Trustee Jane Veron, three village staff members, and AKRF representatives. The finalists’ proposals then will be presented to residents, who will be encouraged to comment at a community engagement meeting(s). For more information about the Freightway Development work process, click here.

Lowdown on Last Round of Grievances
This summer, 636 property tax grievances were filed and evaluated by the Scarsdale Board of Assessment Review. Of those, only 118, or 18.55 percent were approved. Last year, a total of 552 grievances were filed and 136, or 24.6 percent, were approved.

When reporting the data, Mayor Marc Samwick mentioned the impact of SALT deduction limits on property values – particularly at the high end of the market -- and addressed recent calls for another revaluation in Scarsdale. He said, “We may start hearing calls for a revaluation and I might offer a few items related to that, in terms of why we may want to wait before proceeding quickly...” Samwick explained that 1) the village still is in the process of hiring an assessor; 2) village staff are waiting for the release of new assessment software – important, given problems with the existing system, and, 3) “It’s appropriate to wait until there is stability in the real estate market after the adjustment resulting from the implementation of SALT deduction limits.” Samwick continued, “Based on discussions with market professionals, the market appears to be in the midst of resetting and establishing a new equilibrium… To conduct a revaluation in the midst of this value resetting process would almost ensure that another revaluation would have to soon follow.”