Friday Night Lights (and more) at Darien High?
Updated 11:46 pm, Thursday, April 7, 2016
Richards made the announcement, which was not on the agenda, just before the close of the meeting.
“Last November, I suggested that the Board of Selectmen take a leadership role in regard to DHS lights,” Richards read from a prepared statement. “The suggestion was welcome by a group of neighbors who have opposed the lights. They invited me to discuss the issue with them back in January. For the past several months the neighbors and I have been working on a solution.”
His letter,“Neighbors Willing to Say ‘Yes’ to Permanent Lights at Darien High School Subject to Reasonable Guidelines for Use,” is said to spell out the concerns of 14 people who live near the field.
Richards told the board that in the months since he was elected, he had partnered with the neighbors and Superintendent of Schools Dan Brenner, who has been vocal in his support for the project, to hash out a solution to the long-contested issue of lights at Darien High School. According to the letter, the process included meetings with residents of nearby towns. But, the endorsers stress, the question of lighting the high school’s field is unique in Darien.
The letter states:
“Unlike other towns in Fairfield County, we do not have a property that is isolated from surrounding residential neighborhoods. DHS is located in the middle of an existing residential neighborhood and at the edge of a protected wetlands. This reality brings with it the implicit trust and a need for heightened sensitivity and prudence when establishing rules for the use of the lights.”
Guidelines suggested include: Prioritization of safety, including imposing a police presence at night games and controlling parking and traffic; limiting the use of lights to Darien High School athletic events, and limiting the number of games played under lights; minimizing light and sound impact; use of retractable light poles to be removed after an established season is over; and making the guidelines enforceable and permanent for 15 years.
The letter acknowledges that approval for the project lies mostly in the hands of the Board of Education and the Planning and Zoning Commission, but ends by saying, “We respectfully request the Darien Board of Selectmen to take a leadership role by endorsing these guidelines for any light implementation.”
Following Richards’ presentation, Selectwoman Susan Marks asked Richards to elaborate on comments he made to the Darien News in an April 1 article in which he was quoted as saying, “Being an effective leader means empowering the people, and not consolidating your power. And too much consolidation of power is going on right now.”
“As elected officials,” Richards said in response, “I’m trying to promote that we stop arguing among each other.”
First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson echoed Richards’ point, saying, “We endeavor to give outreach and to provide substantive opportunity for public participation.”