By John Fitts
CANTON — On Wednesday night, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the installation of permanent lights at the Canton High School track and multi-use field facility.
The decision, which includes several parameters, came after nearly three hours of discussion on the subject.
The special permit use, special permit and site plan modification allows for four, 80-foot poles with dimmable LED lights to be installed at the facility. School officials said their will be no light spillage on abutting properties.
Up to 25 games (a year) will be allowed under the lights with restrictions on starting times and a requirement that the lights be turned off a half hour from the game’s conclusion but no later than 10:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. There are also restriction on amplification. Games played on the turf include soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and football.
Practices under the lights are allowed to go until 8:15 p.m. with lights off 15 minutes later. No games or practices under the lights will be allowed on Sundays.
However, the commission has allowed for the lights, at 15 percent power, to be turned on by early morning and evening users who want to walk the track any day of the week.
Lights on Canton, a subcommittee of The Canton Athletic Booster Club, has committed to raise some $250,000 for the lights and related costs. They expect it to take 12 to 18 months and are planning special events, a brick patio and sponsored banners and flags at the facility.
“We’re thrilled,” said It’s going to be a great resource for the community and all the Canton schools,” said Kimberly Marze, co-chair of Lights on Canton.
But the moment didn’t come without some input, concerns and compromise.
On Wednesday the commission first continued with a public hearing it had started on Nov. 2. While that was done to primarily done because the commission wanted some further information from the school district, it also gave area residents a chance to speak again. The commission also allowed people to speak once again after it came up with proposed conditions.
The biggest concern of neighbors continued to be noise. Many who spoke said they appreciated the facility but already live with noise that’s often prevalent day and night.
Ron Dymicki said he lives a quarter of a mile away and could clearly hear the play-by-play from the most recent football game.
While the school district drew up its list of suggested parameters, Dymicki, who lives on a small street off of Dyer Avenue, felt there weren’t enough facts presented about potential uses. He later expressed concern when the commission considered doing away with drop-dead times for the lights to go off on game nights. Dymicki said that just opened the door to too many late nights, should games be delayed for one reason or another.
“I think you really need to look at the impact (to the) neighbors,” he said. “I urge to you to look at the management, the number of games and the amount of time the lights area going to be on.”
Abby Skinner, a student athlete, said she understood the neighbors concerns and even suggested the school might place restriction on use of whistles after a certain hour. But Skinner also said the community should get full use of the field and said the lights will really be a boost for the school..
“We take pride in how much school spirit we have,” she said. “I think that lights really amplifies that.”
Other students and athletic advocates said the lights will allow practices to go a little later and for junior varsity and varsity teams to play on the same field and complete JV games that are now sometimes cut short.
Several other owners of neighboring properties, however, reiterated concerns about noise and even equality of usage and the importance of free play time.
Commission members said they could not regulate who uses the facility but ultimately set the following conditions, some of which are more restrictive than those suggested by school officials. At least one condition – the walking lights – was broadened from the suggested language.
“The following stipulations are necessary to ensure compliance with the special permit criteria of Section 9.2.E:
- Walking lights shall be permitted from 5 AM through dawn, and from dusk to 8:30 PM at 15% of full power (no greater than 7 foot candles on the track surface) on a user activated button operational only at that time.
- Up to 25 games shall be allowed to be held under the lights.
- Football games held on a Fridaynight shall have a scheduled start time of no later than 7 PM.
- Non-football games held on a Fridaynight shall have a scheduled start time of no later than 8 PM.
- Other nights of the week any game shall have a scheduled start time no later than 7 PM.
- One week a year scheduled games that week shall be allowed starting no later than 8 PM.
- No games or practices shall be allowed under the lights on Sundays.
- Lights shall be turned off ½ hour from the conclusion of the game.
- Practices under the lights shall conclude by 8:15 PMwith lights turned off by 8:30 PM.
- Up to two special events (in addition to the 25 games allowed under b) shall be allowed to conclude by 9:30 PM, with lights turned off by 10 PM.
- Amplified sound for games under the lights, including but not limited to pre-game music and National Anthem, is permitted prior to the start of the game.
- Amplified sound for games under the lights may be used for mid or post event for senior ceremonies or pertinent score announcing.
- Use of amplified sound shall cease at the completion of the game.
- No more than 10 games under the lights are allowed “play by play” amplified sound.
- Amplified sound under the lights is not allowed at practices of any kind.
- The conditions of the March 2013 approval of the facility are incorporated by reference.
- The use of amplified sound under the lights shall expire at the conclusion of 30 months, operation from the date of completed installation unless the applicant submits an application at that time (or sooner) for a public hearing to evaluate the conditions pertaining to use of amplified sound under the lights. The Commission may modify such conditions based on input and observations at that time.
- Under any circumstance in which play is extended due to inclement weather or unexpected suspension of play, lights shall be turned off no later than 10:30 PMon weekdays and 11 PM on weekends.
- Photo metrics at the property lines shall be field verified by the ZEO and adjustments made if necessary prior to the commencement of operation of the lights.”