Planning Board Tosses the Question of Lights at Crossway Field Back to Village Trustees

2022-05-14 08:42:14 By : Ms. Jana zheng

After a second five hour hearing on an application to install field lights at Crossway on May 4, 2022, the Scarsdale Planning Board punted on making a recommendation for or against the application and threw the ball back to the Scarsdale Board of Trustees for a decision.

This followed another lengthy hearing of the Planning Board on this application. On March 23, 2022, the board heard many of the same reasons to install the lights as well as objections from those who live nearby.

After that meeting the Village Board of Trustees considered the Planning Board’s memo and came back to them to ask them to make more specific recommendations on the following questions:

1) the location of all proposed lights to be installed; 2) details related to the type of lights proposed; 3) the direction of light and potential spillage; 4) the potential impacts on adjacent land uses, including but not limited to potential increase in noise and traffic created by athletic events, including practices and contests conducted after sundown; and 5) all other information and considerations deemed appropriate by the Planning Board in their review of the proposed installation.

On May 4, the highly contentious proposal galvanized both Quaker Ridge residents who live near the field against baseball lovers around town, both passionate about their viewpoints.

On the one side, those who live near the field repeatedly voiced objections, centering on:

-The abundance of recreational facilities in one small area – including the pool, fields, tennis courts and stables, all in one corner of the Village.

-The possibility that night games would bring more traffic, noise, light and disruption to the area around Crossway.

-Safety issues posed by the lights which would not be installed in compliance with National Little League standards.

-The potential for night games to pose danger to passing cars, pedestrians.

-The deficiencies of the current field which lacks a safe spot for spectators and a dugout for the players, both which might be exacerbated at night games.

New information at this meeting was conveyed by Sarah Bell, President of the West Quaker Ridge Neighborhood Association. Though she said she was not for or against the proposal, she presented the 2017 Lighting Standards and Safety Audit for installation of lights from the National Little League which specify that the light poles be 40-55 feet from the foul line and located outside a fence. Current plans call for the poles to be located at less than half that distance and no fence will be erected.

Bell pointed out that the technical proposal was made by MUSCO, the light installation company, and had not been evaluated by a licensed engineer. She said, “The Scarsdale Little League application fails to meet safety, legal and technical standards.”

Both Steve Pass from the Scarsdale Little League and David Kulis from MUSCO said these standards were recommended but not mandatory and that other fields in the area were not in compliance. Kulis said, “We could add safety padding to the poles. Most fields in this area do not have the space to place the poles 60 feet from the foul line.” They cited a letter from the SLL District Administrator who found that the plan was safe and within the Little League's minimum guidelines for play. See his letter here.

Supporters of the proposal said that the presence of the lights would allow the league to increase participation by 15% to 20% by adding a field to their schedule and also cited the novelty and fun of playing under the lights. Much of the conversation centered on potential usage. The Little League said they would use the lights not more than 76 nights a year. Board members and neighbors questioned whether or not other Village teams or non-resident teams would apply to use the field on additional nights.

Recreation Superintendent Brian Gray said, “We allocate the fields – if we have available time we allow other teams to get permitted. But the majority of the team must be residents. Non-resident teams cannot have permits. If the light proposal goes through, we could update our usage policy.”

On the subject of light spillage, the applicants presented findings from the International Dark Sky Association, a group that protects the night sky. He said, “They are the authority on light pollution. They created guidelines and standards for outdoor lighting. They have design criteria to make objective evaluations of sports lighting….They determined that the MUSCO design met their criteria with one change. They changed two fixtures to help with the glare metrics. The diagram shows zero light at the edge of the field though the neighbors are afraid they will see lots of light.”

Steve Pass added, “These are the same lights that are at Butler Field – and the lights do not seem to be an issues – just the sound/noise from the games. Kulis, said, “Our light plan is as good as it gets…. light will be projected upward – it does not spill into the neighborhood. You will see a lit field – but there will be no glare.”

On the question of whether or not the lit field will result in increased traffic, Steve Pass showed a photo showing relatively few spectators at Little League games. He showed a time lapse video taken from 8:38am to 9:20am on a Saturday morning when three games were being played at once that showed no traffic build up on Crossway. He said, “This would cause somewhere between an additional 24 and 50 cars. Parking gets maxed out when there are three games going on – but there would only be one.”

There was hours of testimony from residents. Gerry Antell who has gathered a petition against the project with 164 names suggested that instead of installing lights, the Little League “could use $500,000 to improve many fields in Scarsdale – that would benefit more players.” He said, “How about SLL spearheading a field improvement coalition for all teams that need a field. They could use their surplus to enhance facilities for the entire village.” He continued, “It is necessary to acknowledge the League’s generosity. Neighbors fighting with each other stinks – how can we find common ground? Poor condition of fields stinks – there are no restrooms and some fields are overused. The league is motivated and wishes to improve youth sports – why not use this money to improve all of our fields. It favors girls sports over boys sports.”

“We met with several members of the Little League board about our idea last week – and it can be done. Fields can be improved, turf installed, an effort like this would be a tremendous asset. Everyone would get behind it.”

Neighbor John Lofaso of Harvest Drive said, “I will have a view of the lights if they go up – from every window on the back of the house.. I think the lights would be an eyesore. These studies were done by a company that wants to install these lights. If there are not enough spots, expand the size of the teams. – they are very small. This will set a dangerous precedent to let a large donation sway the trustees.”

Paul Friedman agreed. He said, At Fox Meadow Tennis Club the noise and the lights affected the neighbors. I don’t believe this will be the end of this. Friday night football will be next. Where does it lead?”

Baseball supporters spoke in favor of the lights and posited the situation as a NIMBY issue.

Dan Ornstein from Carstensan Road said he lives across the street from the A School in one of houses closest to Butler Field. He said, “I can see if from my front door. I had concerns about the bleed of the lights and the aesthetics of the poles but I have been pleasantly surprised. They do not bleed beyond the field. It is not a disruption to the neighborhood. The poles are nowhere near as I feared it might be. This is a case of NIMBY. Maroon and White supported the lights at Butler Field. I don’t remember Quaker Ridge residents objecting to lights at Butler Field.”

Dan Besikof said, “What makes this town great is that it’s a great place for kids. Here, a half a million is being donated to make this town better. The town will pay for nothing and these lights will attract young families for years to come.”

He continued, “The people who are objecting bought houses around the field next to our sports complex. Only a few houses can be seen from the field – that’s when the trees are bare. A small group of houses are trying to block something that will benefit all the kids. I think we heard that the impact is quite minimal. The Dark Sky organization did independent vetting. The light does not end on anyone’s property. The poles will hardly be visible and they will blend in. It is a classic NIMBY situation – but these people chose their backyard, and that is a baseball field. They are trying to block a benefit for thousands of kids who are here now and will move to Scarsdale.”

Ryan Spicer from 51 Tunstall Road in Edgewood said, “We are looking at a single game at night… At most 50 cars. We are looking to improve the use of a single field. We are looking to give more kids the opportunity to participate in a recreational sport.”

David Glattstein of 6 Old Lyme Road said, “New Rochelle has a lit baseball field. I coach little league. We don’t improve the community because it is necessary – we do it because it’s right. I support a free benefit to the community. We are listening to the trustees. We are tired of things being turned down because of a few loud voices.”

Well near midnight, the Planning Board deliberated on the issue. Chairman John Clapp said, “The neighbors seem to be pretty monolithic on this one. They don’t like it … In the end the trustees have to make that call.”

After considerable discussion, the Planning Board said they would draft a recommendation to the Village Board of Trustees in response to the questions posed.

Reviewing the safety issues, they suggested a study to determine whether or not the field is safe, if the positioning of the lights would be safe, and the potential impacts on pedestrian and traffic safety.

Board member Harold Porosoff said, “Given that we are not following the requirements, what does that mean for the safety of the children? Village Planner Greg Cutler added, “There is a disagreement about those rules and the setbacks. Scarsdale Little League says that the National Little League says they are recommended, but not required setbacks.”

Should a traffic study be done to assess the increase of cars in the area?

About field usage, they said it would be necessary for the Recreation Department to draft firm usage rules and demonstrate that there were resources to enforce them. Was it possible to limit usage to Scarsdale Little League? Could other ISO’s and teams be barred from using a Village field?

They suggested that more information was needed on the presence of lit fields in residential neighborhoods. How many are there and what has been the experience of neighbors?

Cutler said the application would be subject to a SQRA review, i.e. an environmental impact report, with the Planning Board as the lead agency.

Chair John Clapp agreed to work with Cutler to craft a memo on the questions that needed to be answered in time for the May 24, 2022 meeting of the Scarsdale Village Board.