Neighbors, school officials look to illuminate conversation about field lights in Darien
DARIEN — Neighbors of Darien High School turned out to speak their minds last week about the proposed installation of lights at the school’s football field.
Residents shared their concerns and support of the project as outlined by Superintendent of Schools Dan Brenner earlier this month.
Chief among the concerns were pinning down what time the lights would be shut off, how often the field would host conference games not involving Darien teams, how the landing strip effect of LED lights would affect homeowners living with the glare shining into their homes and how the scarcity of parking at the Darien High campus would be addressed.
“It should not be forgotten that Darien is quite unique among other neighboring towns in the location of the school, as well as its athletic fields,” said Albertus van den Broek, of Linda Lane. “It needs special safeguards to be put in place to maintain the residential character of the town.”
Lennis Koontz, of Middlesex Road, lobbied for a study of the
“We do request that the Board of Education consider engaging a sound and light engineer to ensure that the nuisance is minimized using the latest technology and placement of the devices,” Koontz said.
In response to concerns raised about lights and sound, Brenner suggested that some sort of barrier could be built to mitigate those effects. He also proposed a smarter sound system with strategically placed speakers to limit the sound escaping the field and to lower the decibel levels.
Brenner also said because of a recent change to the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s postseason system — the league’s regular-season champions go directly to the state tournament — the proposal about hosting FCIAC tournament games is not vital.
Other members of the community spoke in support of the project.
Tiernan Cavanna, of Old Farm Road, told the board she is wholeheartedly behind the lights and believes the project could benefit her three young children.
Stephanie O’Malley, of Circle Road, echoed those remarks.
“I believe that not only will it create a wonderful spirit for our community, but it will also help with safety during practices,” O’Malley said.
Other parents suggested that Friday night events could offer a social alternative on Friday nights in a safe space.
But many of those residents living closest to the proposed site of the light banks remain wary of the consequences.
”It’s a different situation if you live there,” said Dan Carey, of Leroy Avenue, who told the school board he moved to town because of its residential charm. “A lot of people who are for the lights, don’t live near the lights.”
Carey said he often picks up trash after football games. He also said the town and Board of Education have a responsibility to respect those who live near the field, even though garbage pickup and policing the area are not under the Board of Education’s control.
“We simply ask that we have some certainty in our lives,” Koontz said, referring to limitations on night games and usage to be binding for 15 years.
Still, the most contested issue seemed to be when the lights will turned off at the high school.
Neighbors originally asked that 7 p.m. be the cut off, but Brenner said that 8 p.m. would help accommodate youth sports that currently take the field once the high school teams have vacated.
Some members of the school board suggested a 7 p.m. cut off earlier in the week and an 8 p.m. cut off Wednesday through Friday.
The board asked Brenner to put all of his suggested regulations into a sample memo and mock schedule of events for a possible vote at its June 28 meeting.