Large crowd attends Borough Council meeting to witness decision, voice opinions
By P.J. D’Annunzio, Staff Writer, The Times
KENNETT SQUARE — The long process to install lights at Kennett High School’s football field took another step forward Monday night, as the Borough Council agreed to send a revision to the borough’s zoning ordinance on to county planning authorites for comment, rather than start over from scratch, despite the objection of neighbors of the school.
Those gathered in support of the proposed stadium lights — including student athletes, parents, coaches, and school district administrators — greatly outnumbered those against the project’s fruition, comprising record-setting attendance for a Kennett Borough Council meeting. Despite the odds, however, those residents against the construction of the nearly 70 foot high light towers were adamant in voicing their opinions to the council.
The council stated before public comment was allowed to begin that the only two outcomes possible from the meeting were either for the council to pass the text amendment to the zoning ordinance that would permit the lights onto the Chester County Planning Commission for further review, or to start the variance process again from scratch.
With that being said, the first speaker to approach the podium on the district’s behalf was Matt Sterner, a representative of Musco Lighting — the supplier and manufacturer of the lights for the project. Sterner went on to describe the evolution of Musco’s stadium lighting technology from the first generation open-bulb lighting array to the current generation of visor-lighting which directs light solely onto the field instead of skyward and in other directions.
“The hooded visors cut off normal up-light and redirect it back to the playing field. It also reduces spillover light in the surrounding area,” Sterner said addressing concerns that the stadium lights would contribute to light pollution.
“I believe that the majority is ultimately going to prevail,” Attorney David Malman said “But we’re standing here for the rights of the people who are nearby the field and who will be impacted on a daily basis.”
Malman is the attorney for those opposing the lights project. He went on to read a list of terms for the proposed usage of the stadium lights, such as restriction to school activities and a revision to the hours and days of operation. Eventually Malman was cut off by Borough Council President David Miller for exceeding the public comment time limit.
Several comments were also made by residents stating that the school district was inflexible in terms of cooperating with the needs of residents. Responding to this, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Barry Tomasetti took to the podium.
“When I first came to this district I was approached by the Demon Lights Committee and was asked to come on board with this project. I thought it was a great idea; it makes our school district look attractive,” he said. “My interest is trying to make [Kennett Square] one of the best places for young people. We have been very responsive to our neighbors…our school board won’t allow me as the superintendent to ignore the issues.
“There probably will be some inconvenience,” he continued, “I don’t sit in the shoes of the neighbors here. But I do live in the Kennett school district, I have children that participate in extra-curricular activities; the best anti-drug program that we have are the extra-curricular activities that the school provides. I’m interested in making those attractive and getting more kids invested in them. But I promise that we will be dedicated to being good neighbors — I will guarantee that and our school board will guarantee that.”
At least one resident, Ann Causey, whose property directly overlooks the high school’s football field, was unsatisfied with the Superintendent’s guarantees as well as the technical statements from Sterner.
“I would like to remind the Borough Council that the lighting expert is a salesman; he is a Musco lighting expert, not necessarily a lighting expert,” she said. “These lights are going to tower over the school. They’re going to be visible, even when they’re not lighted, from everywhere in our wonderful little quaint historic borough. It’s not a very historic look to see huge aluminum light fixtures over the gorgeous façade of that school building.
“I can’t imagine that they need those fields that much for practices that 240 nights out of the year they need to have that field lit until 10 o’clock at night. That’s just obtuse; you can’t even imagine how unrealistic that is. They can have their practices during the daylight hours…bring in lights for special events, bring in lights for your football games…take them right back out, and Kennett stays the same small town it is now with this beautiful historic architecture that people have fought and spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to preserve.”
Despite Causey’s entreaties, the Borough council voted to send the proposed amendments to the County Planning Commission for further review. The public hearing is scheduled for August 6th where deliberation will continue at the county-level.
For more information on the history of the stadium lighting issue, visit http://kennetttimes.com/?p=3936