Parks and Recreation to pursue temporary lighting

The Parks and Recreation Commission will petition the Planning and Zoning Commission for an amendment to the zoning regulations that would allow temporary, portable lighting within 1,500 feet of Route 7.

“That would encompass all of the fields at Allen’s Meadow; it would encompass all of the stadium area; it would encompass Gilbert and Bennett, hopefully over into Schenck’s Island, and Merwin Meadows when we have concerts down there,” Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce said at the June 6 meeting of the Board of Selectmen.

“It would [have to] be a permanent venue,” Pierce said. “The lights would not exceed 30 feet; they would not be pointed toward anyone’s houses, and the reason we looked off of the Route 7 corridor was, primarily, it’s not a residential area.”

Pierce said the Parks and Recreation Commission is submitting the application in response to an unsatisfied demand for athletic field usage within the town.

“There is a problem in the fall, specifically with youth groups who have activities, and it gets dark real early,” Pierce said.

“Some of those youth groups, like the Wilton Soccer Association, have practices right after school because they have paid professional coaches … but the youth football association and the youth field hockey association in particular have volunteer moms and dads involved in the program, and those folks are working and have to get back to town, so they can’t get onto the field at that time, hence our request for consideration for this change to the zoning regulations,” he said.

“It’s becoming more of a problem, the more that people are looking to use fields,” Pierce said.

Selectman Lori Bufano asked, “Would they be diesel-powered?”

“That would be the most economical way,” Pierce replied.

Selectman Dick Dubow was concerned that the “temporary” lights would become permanent in practice, because local youth sports teams would be renting them annually.

“I can tell you that there’s no intent of making these permanent in any way, shape or form. The usage is specifically for special events and/or for fall usage for athletic groups that really need it. In spring, quite frankly, they don’t need it,” Pierce said.

Selectman David Clune wondered if the Parks and Recreation Commision is pursuing another, more permanent solution to increased field demand.

“The idea is that the Parks and Recreation Commission is going to be looking into field use in general within the community, and if there’s any need for increased field use, or what we can do to maximize what we have currently,” Pierce said.

“As Dave said, the temporary lights will bridge a gap to a future synthetic turf field that the town would spearhead, but don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Even if a new, lit, synthetic turf field were to magically appear tomorrow, there would still be some lights that would be required based on the volume of participants in these activities right now,” he said.

“One field can certainly help out, but it’s not going to take care of everything,” Pierce said.

A motion was made to support the Parks and Recreation Commission’s application moving forward. First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice, Bufano, and Clune voted in favor of the motion, while Dubow and Second Selectman Michael Kaelin voted against.

Dubow did not agree with Pierce’s definition of “temporary,” and Kaelin felt offering support of a potential change to the zoning regulations was not within his purview.