BOE Request for Temporary Lights at Central Middle School Denied by Planning & Zoning

Thursday night’s P&Z meeting resulted in denials of several controversial proposals.

Fields at Central Middle School. File Photo

Fields at Central Middle School. File Photo

The Greenwich Planning & Zoning commission denied proposals for a 19 unit apartment building to take the place of 6 turn of the century houses on Milbank, and a 60 unit building with parking for just 37 cars at 143 Sound Beach Ave that came in under 830g statute to encourage affordable housing

Also, on Thursday, the commission again evaluated a proposal from the Board of Education for temporary lights at Central Middle School for the 154 members of the Greenwich High School Rugby Team.

At the previous P&Z meeting, the proposal was for temporary lights for fall and spring, and the commission asked the BOE to return with more data.

By the time they returned, Rugby season was over, so the proposed MI was only for temporary lights in spring, 2018.

Commissioner Nick Macri pointed out that on March 1, the sun sets at 5:46pm, then the clocks change on March 11. “On March 12 the sun sets at 7:00pm,” he said, adding that a  a spring installation the temporary lights might not even be needed.

Daniel Watson, the director of facilities for the BOE said that facilities staff, after training from the manufacturer or rental agency, would be the ones to set set up the lights up and take them down on a daily basis, and that the district was still evaluating the costs of renting versus purchasing.

In discussion the experts hired by the BOE were not well versed in the meaning of the “Tier 4” standards for diesel emissions of the generators proposed to power the lights.

Ryan Chmielewski, a landscape architect at Milone & MacBroom Inc, said, “The emissions meet the most stringent regulations that are out there today, Tier 4 EPA regulations and European Tier 4 regulations.”

The commissioners said the information on “Tier 4” read like “Greek.”

“It’s Greek to me too,” Chmielewski said. 

Other regulations were met, including height of the poles, setbacks and decibel levels.

The CMS field currently has two baseball diamonds, and the proposal would be to lay out the illuminated field with sensitivity to neighbors, tucking it into the hillside. “We wanted to keep it as far away from everybody as possible,” Watson said.

“We’ve spaced out the lighting for full size soccer field,” Watson said, adding that a rugby field can share the same dimensions as a soccer field.

Liane Tel of Coachlamp Lane on the other side of Orchard Street from CMS said she is already anticipating worse traffic given  Greenwich Country Day School’s plans to open their high school on Stanwich Rd.

Dr. Arthur Yee of Coachlamp Lane said diesel fuel is a significant risk to humans.  He referenced articles including one from the Dept of Health and Human Services, which state that diesel exhaust causes lung cancer and a variety of respiratory diseases.

Dr. Yee asked if the commission was willing to accept even minimal health risk to children. He said in terms of risk, children have a higher propensity.

Board of Education member Dr. Gaetane Francis testified in response to Dr. Yee’s comments.

She said it was unfair to talk about chronic long-term exposure to fumes versus exposure during “a couple hours a day over a few weeks.”

“The likelihood of this having an health impact on students is extraordinarily small,” Dr. Francis said. “I think the temporary lighting is very beneficial to us in terms of helping our athletes. I’m a strong supporter of start time change and a strong supporter of athletics.”

Dr. Francis said that by March 11, the need is going to be reduced to minimal or nothing. She described the temporary lights as a short term, very temporary fix.”Probably two to three weeks is my sense,” she said.

“What’s the likelihood you’ll come back asking for temporary lights in the fall?” P&Z director Katie DeLuca asked.

Dr. Francis said she didn’t know because many options were still being evaluated.

Brian Tunney of Orchard Street asked what was the plan to get the diesel fuel to the generators, and how would CMS students be impacted by the presence of the lights.

The applicant replied that a local truck would deliver the fuel once a week, and the units would not be on the field after use, but stored closer to the parking lot. Systems would be taken down and put away during the school day.

Mr. Watson said it was still possible for electrical cables to be buried in order to power the lights with electricity.

Watson also said athletes would be bused from GHS to Central Middle School for practice, and bused back to GHS. He said parents would not pick up at CMS.

“I’m just wondering the risk-reward here,” Tunney said, noting that the field at CMS is often wet. Tunney also shared concerns about traffic. He said traffic around CMS is very heavy between 7:30am to 9:00am and again around 3:00pm

Rosemarie Anner, a 38 year resident of Coachlamp Lane said, “When we moved here 38 years ago we cold hear the birds sing and the crickets hum. Now what I hear is the whoosh of cars as if it’s the Indie 500.”

Ms. Anner said Rinaldi’s Deli was once a nostalgic country store. “Now it’s a great stop for every trucker in town.  At lunch time, from 11-2, God help you.  Construction workers, landscapers, plumbers and electricians are all buying their sandwich there,” she said. “At 3:00 pm all the kids congregate there.”

Anner said the Greenwich Reform Synagogue has added traffic and has plans to open a nursery school. Plus, she said the new Greenwich Country Day high school on Stanwich Road will all add traffic. “I want our neighborhood preserved,” she said.

Susan Foster, an abutting neighbor of Eastern Middle School, said property values are being impacted by this and other decisions about lighting.

“This is happening because of mismanagement by the Board of Education and administration, and the neighborhood is being asked to solve it,” Ms. Foster said, adding, “No ground on public property in Greenwich should be dug into unless you do borings first.”

Foster said it didn’t make sense to dig holes at CMS just for two weeks of temporary lights.

During discussion, P&Z chair Maitland said the commission couldn’t rule if the proposal wasn’t narrowed down to either diesel or electric powered lights. He said that it had to be for one or the other.

Mr. Watson then agreed the electric option was the one he’d like the commission to consider.

In a motion to deny the Municipal Improvement, the vote was 5-0, with Richard Maitland, Margarita Alban, Peter Levy, Andy Fox and Nick Macri all voting in favor of denial.

See also:

Experienced Attorney Joins Board of Selectmen, Impacts Timetable on Potential Litigation for GHS Lights

Greenwich Board of Education Green Lights GHS Lights Litigation (Nov 15, 2017)

GHS Neighbors Blast Schools Super During “What If” Presentation on Options for Lighting and Cardinal Field Upgrades

Playing Football in the Dark at GHS: Parents Not Happy as Daylight Savings Converges with Later Dismissal

With No End in Sight for GHS Fields Shortage and Lighting Restrictions, GCDS Enjoys “Friday Night Lights”

Neighbors Slam BOE Proposal for Temporary Lighting on CMS Field; P&Z Says Come Back with More Details  (Oct 25, 2017)

GHS Cardinal Stadium Lighting Upgrades and Deed Restrictions Leave Greenwich Hamstrung. Again. 

Selectmen Bless Temporary Field Lighting at Central Middle School for GHS Sports Practices

Director of School Facilities Appointed for Greenwich Schools

Greenwich Board of Ed Votes 5-3 in Favor of Implementing School Start Change for Fall 2017 (September 2016)