Darien P&Z commission crafts lighting amendment
Updated 9:36 am, Sunday, July 22, 2012
The spotlight is now on subsection 405b(3) of the Darien Zoning Regulations, as the Planning and Zoning Commission, which closed public hearings in June, is in the process of modifying regulations for temporary field lights to extend 30 feet.
At their meeting Tuesday night in town hall, commission members offered suggestions for ways to rewrite and solidify the proposal put forth by Darien Junior Football League, while considering years of local residents' concerns regarding the glare of the lights.
"It has to be critical to the process that once you put the lights up at 30 feet. ... All the geometry has to be analyzed and looked at," P&Z Chairman Fred Conze said, repeating his comment throughout the meeting.
Once the 30-foot lights are up, he said, P&Z members and officials "would do some experimentation aiming and tilting, and finally, when we get the optimum juxtaposition of the lights, we codify that in the plan, which then becomes the plan for the subsequent period of time."
Conze mentioned a similar idea regarding special permit applications for six portable lights at the high school's stadium field, to be used by the DJFL from fall 2012 to 2016.
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"We're talking about an approval for (four) years, 2012 to 2016, so at the end of the first year it'd be nice to have some kind of feedback from both the neighbors and the DJFL about how it worked," he said.
The draft of the zoning amendment Conze read at the meeting allows lights to be mounted 30 feet above grade on a temporary basis, provided they are approved by a special permit that addresses characteristics of the site, located on town-owned property, and angled or shielded to prevent direct glare to surrounding houses.
Susan Cameron, a P&Z member, suggested the document should say the lights must be angled or shielded "using best efforts with available technology" in order to give permit holders more flexibility in how they avoid a glare on neighborhood properties.
Her suggestion caused considerable debate.
"I think that `angled or shielded using best efforts with available technology' is somewhat fuzzy," said P&Z vice chairman Joseph Spain.
Conze said he would take the statement out altogether.
"The burden is on them to figure out the best way to do it," he said of lighting permit holders.
"Just so long as we don't have the neighbors coming back saying, `OK, you're still in violation,'" Cameron said.
"We probably will," Conze said.
"But we need to avoid that," Cameron said.
Conze suggested taking out the phrase "best efforts," which he said cannot be quantified.
Spain said, "We do not know what the available technologies are."
"Right now (we don't)," P&Z member Reese Hutchison said. "But next year, two years, five years down, if we have that language we can require them to look at LED light or other types of light that may not be developed yet. That makes it more functional looking forward."
Cameron said the right shielding isn't currently available, which is why the amendment should be there for when the technology is available.
She also suggested the lights should be portable.
"I don't think that they should be something that get attached to poles that already exist," Cameron said.
Conze put the various suggestions into the amendment draft, which the commission will continue to discuss at its next meeting on July 24.
"If you adopt the zoning regulation next week it would have an effective date of, say, Aug. 1," said P&Z director Jeremy Ginsberg. He also said the special permit approvals would take affect shortly after the zoning amendment.
Conze, looking ahead, said that at the end of the first year with the amendment, "We're either going to hear from the neighbors that they didn't like it, or we're not going to hear from them."
"A lot of this is arbitrary," Conze said of the amendments suggested at the meeting. "What we're trying to do is envision how we're going to do this in the field when we're not in the field. And I think that having the experimentation thing is a key part of this because we really don't know what we're dealing with until we actually see what the capabilities of moving these lights around are."
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