Extra-tall Middlebrook lights are struck down, again

A campaign to install 70-foot light poles at the Middlebrook School football field suffered a serious setback following a court decision last week.

A Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decision to allow 70-foot lights at the Middlebrook School football field was struck down by a Stamford Superior Court judge in a decision released Wednesday, Feb. 11.

This follows a decision by the Wilton Planning & Zoning Commission in 2013 to deny a regulation change that would have allowed lights up to 80 feet tall on any field on town-owned school property.

After these decisions, it appears advocates of taller lights on the field are left with little chance of moving forward. Regardless, Wilton Youth Football has continued a campaign to install a new turf field at Middlebrook.

ZBA decision

In the most recent decision, Judge Charles T. Lee writes Wilton’s ZBA acted improperly when it authorized the installation of enlarged light poles.

This case stretches back to April 16, 2012, when the board originally granted approval for the lights, and reaffirmed its decision on Nov. 18, 2013. The board based its approval of the lights on two legal principals: a finding of hardship, and reduction of an existing non-conformity.

The finding of hardship argument was denied on the basis that the Zoning Board of Appeals’ “findings in support of the hardship variance” (the large size of the Middlebook School zoning lot) were not reasonable in relation to the standard for granting such a variance.

The reduction of an existing non-conformity argument was denied because town counsel could not prove the existing 30-foot Middlebrook lights were ever legally approved.

“… the non-conformity [30-foot lights] which arguably is being reduced must have been in existence and legal before the adoption of the regulation from which the variance is sought,” Judge Lee writes in his decision.