Wilton P&Z approves turf, denies lighting at Middlebrook

Wilton Youth Football's application to install an artificial turf field at Middlebrook School was approved, in part, by the Wilton Planning and Zoning Commission at its meeting Tuesday evening, Oct. 13. Not approved was the lighting portion of the site plan.

Affixed to the resolution was a clause that reads, "This approval does not include or extend to the relocation, placement or replacement of new or existing permanent or temporary lights."

In other words, if Wilton Youth Football wants the new field to be lit, it is going to have to come back, and go again through the Planning and Zoning Commission's public hearing process.

A number of commissioners held that the proposed lights, which 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.”

When the issue could not be reconciled at the last meeting, it was decided that Town Planner Bob Nerney would approach the town counsel and inquire as to whether or not it would be legal for the commission to approve the field while simultaneously denying the proposed lighting scheme.

Associate attorney with Wilton's town counsel Pat Sullivan was consulted and she attended the meeting Tuesday to answer any questions that the commissioners might have had. She explained that approving the field without also approving the lights would be no different than any other approval with a specified condition of compliance and would in fact be similar in that right to many of the commission's past resolutions.

"I've been asked...'May the commission grant the application without including the lights?' You certainly may do that," Sullivan said. "You can eliminate the lights from the plan if you find that the lights don't conform with your regulations. You're reviewing this as a special permit. When you review a special permit, you're acting in your administrative capacity. You're looking at the application, comparing it to the regulations. If it conforms with the regulations, you approve it. If it doesn't conform with the regulations, then you can deny it or adjust it."

The vote was 6-3, with Lori Bufano, Peter Shiue, Sally Poundstone, Chris Hulse, Joe Fiteni and Bas Nabulsi voting to approve the application. Voting against were Franklin Wong, John Comiskey and Doris Knapp.

The turf application, which drew a large crowd to its public hearing, has been a subject of discussion for several months.

During communications before the adjournment of the meeting, Hulse suggested that the commission discuss in future meetings the possibility of modifying the town’s lighting regulations “to take into account athletic fields.”

—Jeannette Ross contributed to this story.