Letter: Is something wrong with athletic lighting picture?
To the Editors:
There was a proposal before P&Z to facilitate the enhancement of sports fields with state-of-the-art lighting. Given that we have a town conservation plan affirming the rights of residents to be free of light and noise pollution and not have bright lights in their view, I thought surely these lights could never happen.
Fortunately, the proposal was denied by P&Z. But issues remain.
Our schools offer nearly every conceivable sub-college sport, many which were not in the school level picture 50 or so years ago.
They have evolved without community ratification of Wilton’s participation.
They have also evolved into sports played and practiced at night.
And they have evolved into sports where the parents of participating students are planning sports facilities and even raising some of the money for these facilities. I emphasize some of the money since electricity for lights and maintenance of lights and synthetic turf are not provided for by the parents.
Conveniently, for the sports advocates, the school sites are zoned residential so there are no regulations in the zoning code specifically governing and especially prohibiting activity that would be allowed by a private residence.
It has evolved so that Wilton has lots of sports fields, enough so that it regularly rents out field time to adult sports leagues, not necessarily from Wilton and even for-profit organizations.
Now there are multiple fields with lights that are grudgingly accepted by residents that can see them, but who have no interest in using them.
And there are several fields with synthetic turf that need major maintenance or replacement where their original sponsors are looking to the town to bear the cost.
Perhaps you can see that the “tail is wagging the dog” and/or the “inmates are running the prison.”
For me, there is an obvious path to follow:
First, declare a temporary moratorium on any field expansion or enhancement.
Second, develop an athletic field plan that speaks to each sport’s needs for practice time and playing time with the number of players by grade level and a summary of resources by season.
Third, document out-of-town and in-town rentals and their impact on total field time.
Fourth, require the superintendent of schools and the Board of Education to approve the plan with respect to school needs and advocate same to the town.
Fifth, require Parks and Recreation to do the same for its needs.
Sixth, form a zoning revision committee that formalizes a zoning plan that both creates parks and recs and school athletic zones along with rights and limitations of same.
Seventh, submit the athletic fields plan and zoning plan to a town meeting and citizen ratification.
Eighth, allow the newly approved zoning fields plan to operate with the usual application and approval processes, but with specific rules.
Perhaps we can bring athletic fields under control!
James T. (Tom) Brown
Middlebrook Farm, Nov. 26