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Some Darien Neighbors Gripe About Taller Football Lights

DARIEN, Conn. – Raising the lights used for Darien Junior Football League practices from 20 feet high to 30 feet high would create an annoyance for surrounding properties, some neighbors say. But the football league says raising the lights and angling them down would reduce light spillage and make practices safer for the kids.

The Darien Junior Football League is seeking to amend the town’s zoning regulations, which allow recreational lights to be only 20 feet high. At a public hearing Tuesday night, resident Paul Michalsky said several of the neighbors around Darien High School, where practices take place, oppose the idea but are afraid to speak up.

Lights shining into nearby homes is “annoying, to say the least,” Michalsky said. The league has performed tests that show raising the structures would not increase light on properties. But Michalsky said those tests did not account for the glow of the lights and the glare off the field and nearby buildings.

Tom Mercein, a member of the league board and a former coach, said teams have moved practices to other locations such as the Sono Field House because the Darien High field was not safe.

“The way the lights shine, they cover some but not all of the field, so you’ll have five or six teams stuffed into a quarter of the space they would have if they had daylight or full lights.”

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Fred Conze said the commission must take into account how the lights could affect the property values of surrounding homes. He recommended that the league have experts look into the physics of raising the lights and lowering them, to see how it would improve lighting on the field and affect nearby homes.

John Sini of the league cited several letters submitted into the record from neighbors who would be most affected by raising the lights yet still support the plan. He said an argument could be made that lights at the high school could increase the value of surrounding properties.

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