Bright future?: Lights proposed for night football practices
Updated 7:09 am, Thursday, September 22, 2011
Westport Police Athletic League football teams could soon have more time to run through their playbooks if the Planning and Zoning Commission approves a new text amendment proposed by the Parks and Recreation Department.
Text Amendment 640 would permit the use of temporary lighting only for team practices at town-owned properties Monday through Friday until 8 p.m., from Sept. 1 until Nov. 30. According to the amendment, two town properties would be allowed field lighting, while any site with lighting would be limited to two lit fields. Town public schools eligible for field lighting would need to have a minimum of 20 acres and 200 parking spaces.
"As you begin losing daylight, it really has a great impact on these athletic programs being able to find adequate practice time," said Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy. "Extending that practice time allows coaches to have a proper amount of training time with their teams. It's a safer situation."
PAL offers tackle and flag football programs for players in grades three through eight and a flag program for grades one and two.
The amendment would facilitate the approval of an accompanying plan submitted to the P&Z by Parks and Recreation that proposes the temporary use of six mobile lighting structures for practices by PAL football teams at the Peter "PJ" Romano Field and an adjacent baseball field at the Doubleday Field complex on Riverside Avenue. The light poles would be 30 feet high when fully extended and would be diesel-powered.
In 2009, Parks and Recreation sought a package of zoning changes that would have permitted both permanent and temporary lighting at town-owned athletic fields. The P&Z ultimately approved an amendment that allowed only permanent lighting. Neighbors of the Staples High School Athletic Complex and the Doubleday complex, however, contested that decision in state Superior Court. The appeal is still pending.
If the town resolves that dispute, McCarthy said Parks and Rec would like to install permanent lighting at Staples, which would pave the way for evening football games. Several Fairfield County schools, including the four public high school football programs in Fairfield and Norwalk, have field lighting.
The P&Z will begin its review of Text Amendment 640 and the Parks and Recreation Department's application to install temporary lighting at the Doubleday Field Complex at a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, in the Town Hall auditorium.