LETTER: Respect GHS Neighbors, Restore Reasonable Use of Greenwich Public School Facilities

Submitted by Wheatleigh Dunham, November 15 ,2017

My following comments do not speak on behalf of Start School Later Greenwich of which I am a member. While I would have preferred a direct “face-to- face” negotiated settlement with GHS neighbors rather than litigation, I now believe we as a community have no choice. I applaud the decision by the BoE to move forward to with litigation to restore the rightful and reasonable use of our public school facilities. We also should thank athletes, coaches, administrators and sports families for speaking up to press for long overdue upgrades to our aging and unsafe athletic facilities. United, this group represents a powerful voice for positive community change. Remember they are also neighbors and live here too.

Over the past few weeks, I have read and accept as genuine, outlandish, misleading and bizarre written communications from one neighbor. To me, these have raised serious questions about this individual’s credibility and lead me to doubt this party can be considered to be acting in good faith. A wobbly case for sure. It took me less than five minutes to disprove one stunning, unfounded allegation with a town department supervisor confirmed by another employee. Are they lying to me? Highly doubtful.

We must be respectful to all GHS neighbors. They too have an obligation to act in good faith. To me, their requests are unjustified and hold a town of 60,000 residents hostage. Our student-athletes have and continue to suffer. Students and attendees with disabilities cannot use the stadium – we are not ADA compliant to my understanding. (My aunt bound to a wheelchair before her passing could not watch her nephew play and I directly blame this group.) Our existing lights are antiquated and do not properly light the single permitted stadium field. They are inefficient, prone to mechanical problems and costly to maintain.

Our athletic facilities are decades behind, and to me a non-expert, seemingly unsafe compared other Fairfield County schools. The main objections apparently revolve around lighting. The other stipulations contained in the agreement in question contain a shockingly long set of banned items which include, but are not limited to, no parking on Hillside Ave, no outdoor public-address system, and a mandatory completely dark school from dusk to dawn. That means no use of GHS during evening hours for meetings, orchestra or band concerts, sports, club activities, etc. That includes no use of our stunning new MISA facility after dark. Lights out. I cannot think of an example of any public school in this country
so severely restricted and handcuffed in terms of using on-site facilities that fall well within the norm of other schools nationwide. We are not proposing to install a nuclear reactor here folks. Seriously.

My hope and expectation is that litigation will open the door to reasonable and rightful use of our public school facilities that will not expose neighbors to additional annoyances. In fact, new technology lighting
demonstrated before the BoE will have dramatically less light glare and bleed. As a neighbor and taxpayer, I would eagerly welcome this introduction. Better public infrastructure leads to maintained or higher home values.

If you purchase a home next to a school there are tradeoffs. You might get a lower price, children can walk to school and there is the use of fields. The downside is some noise, traffic and field lights, etc. Caveat emptor. Greenwich is not proposing to keep lights on late at night, host rock concerts, or land helicopters. Besides, they will only be used on seasonal shoulders with reduced daylight not year-round.

Regrettably, based on this neighbor’s written communications I doubt the Town could have done anything other than launch litigation to seek a solution. The absolute intransigence and unwillingness of one single individual to arrive at a resolution have necessitated these actions. I believe the record will show these communications will have greatly harmed this individual’s efforts. Time will tell.

I think in the end Greenwich will come away with a much-needed upgrade to our outdated and decrepit athletic facilities. GHS neighbors will have less light glare and removal of unsightly and user-unfriendly portable toilets also banned under the original agreement but are in no short supply today. Ultimately, I see a win-win for all, neighbors included.