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BMHS softball field would destroy school’s balance with Highland Avenue community

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I am writing to make  the Norwalk community aware of the major renovation planned for the Brien McMahon softball field at 288 Highland Ave.

Parks and Recreation intends to cover the natural grass with artificial turf, and surround the field with five 60 foot tall light towers, similar to the ones on the fields in the back of the school. Three towers will be positioned directly facing Highland from the school side, and there will be two towers on the Highland side directly across and towering over our homes.

I spent this afternoon walking up and down the street, knocking on doors and making sure that my neighbors are aware of these plans, and the zoning meeting tonight discussing the plan. The agenda, viewable here lists only five homeowners that were told about the plan.  Homeowners that were not contacted include the house right next door to me, literally 10 paces from the position of one of the 60-foot towers!

Heretofore, the integration of the school into the existing residential neighborhood along Highland Avenue has been a model of how a school and a residential community can co-exist. This is a verdant and beautiful street, lined on both sides with trees. Unfortunately, the department of Recreation and Parks, and I can only assume that the school is in agreement, has chosen to abandon that model in pursuit of an intrusive plastic eyesore in front of the school. If this plan goes forward, it is going to fundamentally destroy the balance of the Highland Avenue community. It is unfathomable how anyone can view this plan favorably, and it is equally shocking that they have chosen to do this with as little communication to the public as possible.

As a parent of two teenage girls, one at Roton and one at BMHS, I understand the need for better facilities and opportunities for our daughters to participate in sports; that is NOT the issue. The issue is that the front of the school on Highland Avenue is not the place this, and if it goes forward, it will damage the residential quality of this neighborhood. There are rules in place to protect us from this type of development, but if the school and the Parks Commission can sweep those rules aside in darkness, then those rules and those protections have no meaning.

When there were plans to build a home on Farm Creek in Rowayton, that community had signs up opposing it and calling attention to it on every lawn up and down their streets. I believe that kind of action is what we need here, but we don’t have a civics association like theirs to protect our interests. We need to change that quickly.

James A. Wehrle

 

11 comments

Nora King April 8, 2021 at 8:29 pm

Totally disagree with this. I was part of the planning for this. The parents were contacted and a public hearing was held to discuss this. This field is long over due for the female softball players in Norwalk. The property owners bought and live near a school. With a school comes progress. Kids need to play sports and this field is needed and long over due. Neighbors were contacted and a few came to the meeting to support it.

Tysen Canevari April 8, 2021 at 9:00 pm

James, The new modern lights are very good at keeping the focus on the field. I understand your concern but you did buy a house next to a huge high school. The parking lot is lit all night and is fine. Let the girls play ball on a nice field. Its only a handful of times they will be on anyway. Go watch a game and root for the Senators.

Victor Cavallo April 8, 2021 at 11:10 pm

There was a huge contrversy years ago about allowing even an electronic sign to operate at night on Highland at BMHS. Neighbors would be disturbed by the flashing stray light, it was argued. Now the City wants to light up the whole area like Yankee Stadium. The policy inconsistency is disturbing.

Lee Levey April 9, 2021 at 8:35 am

Where were you when the Zoning Board of Appeals held two Zoom meetings on the issue of lighting this field. No member of the public came forward to comment or object to this project before our Board. We did express concern for the adjacent neighbors on the lighting and set restrictions on the hours of operation. People need to read public notices, not just the comic section of the paper.

Lee Levey
Chairman
Zoning board of appeals

Edward C Fontaine April 9, 2021 at 7:33 pm

it’s unfortunate if the residents near the school were not notified which one would have hoped would be the norm. putting in lights near the street is a big difference.putting in turf doesn’t make a better surface for softball just less maintenance i’m sure.wonder if the usage will go up by renting out the facility for games.seems like a lot for a couple of months. I do read more than the comics Mr.Levy ,sometimes you hope people are considerate of all impacted.

Jody Sattler April 10, 2021 at 10:58 am

There were multiple meetings regarding this project over the past two years. I have personally attended many of them and there were no objections to the field. There is already a school and huge concrete parking lot on Highland Avenue. I don’t understand how an updated field will have any negative impact on that area. There has been a broken score board and inadequate fencing for over 10 years. Not only will this field provide equal play space for our female athletes, it will look much better than the current field.

Bill Dunne April 10, 2021 at 1:31 pm

Will the lights really be needed, or will they be just for show? Serious question. Softball games are nearly all played in the months when daylight savings time is in effect. I don’t know how many games will be played when extra lighting is needed, but I suspect the number is very small. Does that justify the cost to the public, the seeming overkill of five 60-foot towers, and the visual damage to the neighborhood? These are threshold questions in my mind, and I’m not aware that they’ve been answered.

Justin April 10, 2021 at 5:36 pm

This field is great for girls softball. Nothing but NIMBY complaints here. I would not buy a house across the street from a large public facility then expect to tell the public how to use it. This has had plenty of opportunity for public debate and the new field will be visually appealing as it will be brand new. The lights will be used during games which do not run very late.

Tysen Canevari April 10, 2021 at 6:23 pm

The lights will allow for the younger kids to play also. After the high school games end the girls leagues can play.

Jody Sattler April 12, 2021 at 12:15 pm

There are already lights in the parking lot right next to the field. These lights will only be on during games. I don’t understand how they make a difference when the school parking lot lights are brighter AND on every night.

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