Lights for after-dark football practice—something neighbors of the school —would be set 30 feet from the ground and be used starting the first Monday in November under a new plan put before the Board of Education.
That would raise the height of the lighting by 10 feet, potentially making it more visible by neighbors. The lighting would be used only for football practice from sundown from as early as 4:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., with the lights turned off by 7 p.m. on weeknights. The lights would be used for three or four weeks.
Schools Superintendent Stephen V. Falcone proposed the five-year plan to the Board of Education at its regular meeting on Wednesday. Falcone expects to get approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission and a formal vote of support from the Board of Education later.
Lighting at 30 feet up rather than the 20 feet would make "very little, if any, noticeable difference in the spread of the lights," Falcone said. Falcone said Thursday morning that he based that conclusion on a 2010 report from Hygenix, an environmental consulting company, and a follow-up "eyeball test" in 2011 by school district officials.
John Sini, representing the Darien Football League board, supported the request and told the Board of Education his organization was asking for a separate permit from the P&Z Commission to put up lights as early as Oct. 15. The league plays at , behind Town Hall. The league's season starts and ends earlier than the high school football season, he told the board.
Sini said his group's application was filed Tuesday with the P&Z Commission and is expected to go before a public hearing on May 22 and a vote by the board on June 6.
According to , Sini said, beyond the edges of the athletic fields, the glow from them was "insignificant in comparison with moonlight on Jan. 6, 2010."
In a memorandum to the board, Falcone wrote:
"In a review of the use of the lights in past years, the lights tested at 30 feet provided for a greater spread across the width of the field without a change to spillage or luminosity. The increase use of turf space as well as the wider spread would increase visibility and reduce the risks of injury."
A January 2009 study of lighting at the high school fields said the droning from diesel generators for the lights was a problem, the lights should be aimed in ways that reduced the glow or "spillage" of light in ways that annoyed neighbors, and something should be done about diesel exhaust.
In response, that plugged into Darien High School's electric service and made adjustments to the positioning and pointing of the lights. The football league adjusted lighting in similar ways.
A three-year pilot plan for lighting and ended in 2011.
Falcone initially asked for a three-year permit, but Sini said his group proposed one for five years. Falcone then said he would ask for the same time period.
Clarification: Schools Superintendent Stephen V. Falcone said a 2010 consultant's report was a major factor in the conclusion that the 30-foot lights wouldn't spread more light beyond the football field, not just the later "eyeball test" by school officials. The fourth paragraph has been rewritten to reflect that.