Stadium lights: Application withdrawn, resubmitted

Gregory & Adams, the law firm representing Wilton Youth Sports in a bid to alter town regulations concerning outdoor lighting, withdrew its planning and zoning application last week, but a new one was quickly resubmitted.  

The new application has been filed by Gregory & Adams acting as counsel for Eric Dean, an owner of property at 71 Coley Road.

The new application addresses concerns raised by members of the public at the Planning & Zoning public hearing regarding the regulation change that was held on Sept. 23.

According to Bob Nerney, Wilton’s town planner, the new application creates a clear definition of an athletic field, eliminates the word facility (as in athletic facility) and replaces it with field, and restricts athletic lighting to town-owned public school properties.

The application, as received from the Gregory & Adams law firm, now proposes a regulation change that begins as follows:

“Lighting for outdoor athletic fields shall be permitted in all residential districts on Town owned public school properties subject to Special Permit and Site Plan approvals in accordance with 29-10 and 29-10. …”

The application also proposes a definition for the term “athletic fields” as “a piece of land used for playing field sports such as football, soccer, field hockey, baseball, softball, lacrosse, or similar sports; or for competitions such as track and field meets.”

Casey Healy, the attorney representing Mr. Dean, said on Wednesday that he and his client decided not to change the maximum pole height from 80 to 70 feet because 80-foot lights currently exist at the high school varsity softball and baseball fields.

Gregory & Adams withdrew the original application and resubmitted as counsel for Mr. Dean after Anthony LoFrisco of the Committee to Preserve Wilton’s Character asserted at the Sept. 23 public hearing that the law firm’s application was in violation of town regulations.

He said at the public hearing the application should be considered null by the commission because the Gregory & Adams law firm was listed as the request’s applicant, when the law firm itself does not own land in Wilton.

This is a violation of Wilton regulations, Mr. LoFrisco rightly pointed out, because any application entered to the planning commission must come from a land-owning resident of the town.

The Committee to Preserve Wilton’s Character is a “committee in formation” that intends to actively prevent any proposed change to zoning regulations as they relate to stadium or athletic lighting facilities.

Many residents who spoke out at the Sept. 23 public hearing of the Planning & Zoning Commission worried that it would be easy for their neighbors to declare their land a private institution just to gain the ability to put up lights.

But, Mr. Nerney said this is an unlikely scenario.

“That’s an issue that was brought up at the public hearing, and it was a concern that seemed to resonate,” he said. He continued to say, however, that “your two-acre lot was approved for residential housing. You’re not just allowed to do what you please.”

Because Wilton has what is known as “permissive zoning” regulations, Mr. Nerney said, “only those uses spelled out as allowed are permissible.”

“Do people sometimes try to be clever? Sure,” he said. “But Wilton is largely developed, with costly parcels of property. Our regulations are pretty tight to ensure compatibility of use and aesthetics. We try to strike a balance between housing needs and agrarian roots.”