Tall story: Compromise gets 75-foot lights planned at Fairfield U. past hurdle
Fairfield University has won approval to nearly double the height of lights at Alumni Field after working out an agreement with residents who live near the field.
Charles Rhudy, president of the College Park Association, a neighborhood group that represents about 30 homeowners, said university officials and the neighborhood group met many times beginning last winter to hammer out a compromise on Fairfield U.'s plan to take down 40-foot-high lights and replace them with 75-foot-high lights.
"We have worked together through many sessions and a lot of give-and-take and constructive compromise," Rhudy told the town's Zoning Board of Appeals last Thursday. Rhudy said "conditions of approval" agreed to by the university and homeowners represent "a lot of compromise on both sides" and the association is "very pleased" with them.
John Fallon, Fairfield U.'s lawyer, said the existing lights at Alumni Field are old and "don't function efficiently or properly" with regard to energy conservation, containing light on the university's campus and providing "optimal safety conditions" for athletes.
Fallon said the taller lights would reduce "light trespass" onto neighboring properties by better focusing light onto Alumni Field. "The higher lights are better for our athletes, neighbors and spectators," Fallon said to the ZBA.
Andrew Dyjak, of Musco Lighting, based in Oskaloosa, Iowa, said the angle provided with a 75-foot-high light is more direct, while a shorter light pole more readily disseminates illumination across playing fields and onto adjacent properties.
Kevin Gumpper of Carroll Road said he believes the taller lights would lead to "more light on fields, less light in neighbors' eyes."
Before the university could install the 75-foot-high lights it needed a waiver to town zoning regulations that restrict the height of structures to 40 feet. Fallon said the Zoning Board of Appeals previously approved 75-foot-high lights at the former Fairfield High School (now called Fairfield Warde High School) in 1998; Fairfield Ludlowe High School in 2003, and Sacred Heart University in 2008.
The conditions of approval include limiting hours that the lights can be turned on and restricting the lights to 50 percent brightness from 10 p.m. to midnight except for athletic events between schools, such as intercollegiate, interscholastic and club-level contests. The lights also are supposed to be turned off at midnight unless such contests are taking place and cannot be turned on before 6 a.m. The university also has to provide plantings to further shield the lights from nearby residents' view.
The four 75-foot-high lights also require approval from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission, and Fallon said he would ask the TPZ to incorporate the conditions of approval into its review of the application.