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Football League to 'Experiment' with Practice Lights

Planning & Zoning tells the DJFL to use the summer to fine tune its proposal and coordinate with neighbors

Representatives of the Darien Junior Football League say last season's trial lights-use project at Holahan Field was successful, and with the Planning & Zoning Commission's support, next season might well be a sure fire hit.

Tuesday evening heard the commission encourage the DJFL to "experiment" this summer, in the in interest of striking the optimal working compromise: conditions that keep the players safe and the neighbors happy.

"Use the summer to do some experimentation with lights; schmooze the neighbors. It might give you an opportunity to fine tune whatever you want to do," said P&Z Commission Chair Fred Conze.

The utilization of lights at the town's fields has been highly contested for a long time. Proponents say that lighting the fields is necessary to ensure safe practices, especially for high-contact sports like football. Opponents, particularly neighbors whose homes abut the fields, say that the lights are too bright, too loud and too intrusive.

Last October, the Planning & Zoning Commission granted the DJFL a conditional permit which allowed for three, generator-powered portable lights, suffice to light the stadium field during the month of November when daylight savings significantly shortened fall sports teams' practice time.

Pursuant with the terms of the permit, the DJFL submitted a written analysis of the project with feedback from the neighbors in late January. The purpose of last night's meeting with P&Z was to briefly discuss that report and consider how best to move forward, pending the Board of Education's blessing.

"Overall, we thought things went really well," said DJFL spokesman Guy Wisinksi.

Stipulations outlined in the permit made for "sufficient," if not optimal practice conditions, said Wisinksi, noting that a switch from generators to plug-ins and the ability to raise the lights to a greater, 20-foot height would bring great improvement.

With the exception of one vocal St. John Place neighbor who asked that the DJFL redirect the lights, nearby residents gave very little feedback, said Wisinksi.

"The movement was based on one neighbor's request so I think we went above and beyond to meet that one neighbors request," said the DJFL's John Sini.

Terms outlined in P&Z's permit limit tweaking, but after review of the report, the commission thinks a summer of "experimentation," might be beneficial.

Chair Fred Conze encouraged Wisinski and Sini to submit a letter requesting permission to raise the lights to 20 feet to see if the added height allowed for a more concentrated, downward focus, and to poll neighbors for feedback.

The switch to AC power is a slightly more challenging, as the DJFL is "strapped for cash," and the future of the Town Hall property hangs in the balance. Conze suggested contacting Connecticut, Light & Power—always "looking for revenue," he said—to see if a pole with a meter could be positioned near to the field.

"I think what you guys might do is put together a proposal and make the rounds with the neighbors, Dave [Campbell], and we'll meet in the beginning of September," said Conze. "Use the next four months to your benefit."

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