Lights out

Zoning Board of Appeals denies lighting for atheltic fields

By on November 2, 2015
21901378894_56f3c0c26a_bErin Kane

The Zoning Board of Appeals denied the university’s proposed lighting for its athletic fields on Oct. 15.

The university’s proposal was denied for several issues, such as requesting lighting on the field above the height regulations set by the town and not being appropriate lighting across from a state park.

The university wants to install these new lights to improve the fields, according to Sal Filardi, vice president of facilities and capital planning.

“The basics of it is that we’re looking to upgrade our fields and we are working with a court-appointed referee as part of the Title IX decree settlement … it was identified that we need to provide superior facilities,” Filardi said.

In 2013, the university settled a Title IX lawsuit that began in 2009 when Quinnipiac tried to remove the volleyball team. In the settlement, the university promised to spend at least $5 million to improve athletic facilities other than the T.D. Bank Sports Center.

Filardi said the referee suggested the university install state-of-the-art lighting.

“The problem with the denial is…we have to get variances for lighting because there is no sports lighting definition for local codes,” Filardi said.

The five members of the board of appeals—Elaine Dove, Suzanne Carroll, Francis Nelson, Wayne Chorney and Jeffrey Vita—were all involved in the decision on the proposal.

The proposal requested three 50-foot lighting poles, six 70-foot lighting poles and three 80-foot lighting poles, but only 15-foot lighting poles and 35-foot structures are allowed on athletic fields are allowed based on the university’s zone, according to the minutes recorded at the Oct. 15 meeting.

The board of appeals allowed the university the opportunity to update the regulations for the floodlighting that reflect changes in technology to make the lighting less intrusive.

But Filardi said the lighting the university proposed would not be intrusive.

“It doesn’t throw light anywhere except on the field. It doesn’t light up the night sky, it’s 100 percent cutoff,” Filardi said. “I think the two problems were because it wasn’t in their regulation, they talked about maybe we need to change the regulation before we approve the lighting, even though they have approved similar installations. I think the fact that it’s state-of-the-art—I don’t think they really realize it will not be a problem with neighbors.”

Bernard Pellegrino, the attorney representing the university in this case, made a point of acknowledging that there are similar lights used elsewhere in town, including the Hamden High School football field, according to the minutes. But the board members responded to this by saying the fields are in different zones.

Pellegrino said the existing lighting regulations are not conducive to lighting an athletic field, according to the minutes. Pellegrino argued that the light spillage that could occur would not create safety concerns, despite what the board believed.

He even argued that the new technology for the lighting for the field would be so focused on the field that it would not necessarily even meet the normal definition of floodlighting, according to the minutes.

The issue Pellegrino made clear was that the regulations provided by the town of Hamden does not coincide with necessary safety qualifications for athletic field lighting.

The minutes of the meeting showed Andrew Dyjack from Musco Sports Lighting spoke on behalf of the university and said that the higher lights are the only way to properly light the entire field. Dyjack reviewed several different possibilities for lighting on the field but only found that a certain height would allow for the appropriate lighting.

According to the minutes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) said playing “any type of athletics” with the lack of appropriate lighting was not acceptable. The NCAA actually requires fields to have 50 foot candles on the fields.

Filardi said a foot candle is a measurement represented by the strength and brightness of the bulb in each light.

“A foot candle is a measure of light,” Filardi said. “When you take a measurement, there’s a light meter and you hold it three feet off the ground and whatever the light off the bulb is projecting, it reads it in foot candles.”

Keith Ainsworth, an attorney for the residents of 5200 Ridge Road who are labeled as “the face of the neighborhood,” according to the minutes, said the university is not a good neighbor at the moment. Ainsworth submitted a petition on behalf of his clients about the university’s lighting proposal.

Beyond Ainsworth’s pushback, the Zoning Board of Appeals—according to the minutes—does not have the authority to approve the university’s proposal because of the town’s current zoning regulations.

Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals were unavailable to speak to The Chronicle for this story in time for publication.

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