Turf talks continued again

Expecting a resolution, supporters of Wilton Youth Football’s application to renovate Middlebrook Field’s natural grass to artificial turf attended the Planning and Zoning Commission’s meeting on Sept. 28, but left in disappointment when deliberations were continued once more.
The commissioners in favor of approving the application could not persuade those who stood against it to change their opinions.
A straw poll resulted in a straight split, with the majority teetering on the undecided Vice Chairman Sally Poundstone’s swing vote.
Chairman Chris Hulse and Commissioners Lori Bufano, Peter Shiue and Bas Nabulsi said that they were inclined to approve the proposal, while Secretary Doris Knapp and Commissioners Franklin Wong, John Comiskey and Joe Fiteni expressed the opposite.
The main problem they could not reconcile was the lighting scheme, presented by Andrew Dyjak with Musco Lighting during the third and last stage of the public hearing for Wilton Youth Football’s
application.
The disapproving commissioners held that the lights, which Dyjak explained would feature a degree of “uplighting,” did not comply with section 29-9.E.2.a. of the town zoning regulations, which specifies that “all exterior lighting shall be so designed that the filaments, light sources, reflectors or lenses are shielded with opaque material such that the light will be directed down and shall not be visible beyond the boundaries of the lot on which the lights shall be located.”
Hulse asked Town Planner Bob Nerney if there was any way around thatparticular regulation.
“The commission authors these regulations, and you have the ability to interpret these regulations,”
replied Nerney.
Knapp, however, saw no “wiggle-room” within the language of the section.
“With all due respect, Bob, I don’t see how anything that says ‘light shall be directed down’ can be interpreted to ‘light can be directed up,’” she said.
“It clearly violates what our regulations say about the lighting,” said Fiteni, who added that the latest lighting proposal was brought up too late in the hearing process to be thoroughly discussed.
“We introduced, at the third part of the public hearing, a whole new lighting scheme ... I have a real problem with that,” he said.
At one point in the deliberations, Hulse and Fiteni raised their voices in contention when Fiteni accused Hulse of “steering” the process.
The question was raised as to the possibility of temporary lights instead of the noncompliant scheme proposed by Dyjak, and in response to issues voiced by Comiskey, Hulse said, “We already know you don’t support it, so what we’re looking for is for those of us who want to support it...,” before being cut off by Fiteni.
“Wait a minute, Chris, I’m having a problem here,” Fiteni said.
“Hold on,” Hulse said.
“I’m having a problem. No. I’m going on record. I’m having a problem. You’re steering this thing,” Fiteni said.
“I’m not. Joe, Joe...”
“Yes you are.”
“Joe, we went around the room, and we voted.”
“Yeah, but every time somebody objects, you back that person [into a corner] and start questioning their motives.”
“I’m not questioning their motives.”
“You are.”
“I’ve clarified what temporary lighting is.”
“You are. I’m sorry.”
“Joe, I’ve clarified what temporary lighting is — very simple.”
“And every other time somebody has objected you go back and I’m having a real problem [with this].”
“Joe, it looks as if we have a majority here...”
“That’s fine, but don’t...”
“What I’m trying to do is basically answer the questions so we don’t have to stand another six weeks and put these people back out to come back in another two years with another hundred thousand dollars in legal fees. We have a right to do what’s right for the town.”
“I agree.”
“It’s not just me, Joe; it’s the Board of Selectmen; it’s the chairman of the school board and everyone else in the town...”
“No. No. No. I’m sorry.”
“With what?”
“This is a Planning and Zoning decision. Just because they support it doesn’t mean we have to support everything they do.”
“That’s fine, and I’m not recommending that; I’m not saying that. I’m saying the town overwhelmingly supports it, based on what I’ve seen in this hearing, and from these testimonies, so I’m going on that. That’s who I serve.”
“That’s who we all serve. And there were people that came in here and objected, and had genuine objections to other people’s opinions. And I think we cannot ignore those and constantly go back to the Board of Selectmen and the principal of the school and all these
other people.”
“I’ll let you speak for as long as you want and get this out,” Hulse said, “because the thing is: we have something that we’re trying to basically find a way to make happen, OK? And it sounds like, as we’ve gone around the room here, there are enough of us that want to make it happen, and so what we’re trying to do is find a way forward.”
After further debating the application, deliberations were continued to Oct. 13, and the commission requested that Nerney approach the town’s legal counsel and inquire as to what options are available for potentially approving the field without approving the
lighting scheme.