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Athletic Lights Approval ‘Surreal’

By James Lomuscio

The Planning and Zoning Commission’s (P&Z) eleventh hour approval Thursday night of permanent lights at Westport’s Staples High School came as a welcome relief to sports boosters who have petitioned for lights for 34 years.

WestportNow.com Image
An artist’s rendering of the new Staples lights and concession stand. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed graphic

“Usually we wake up the next day and say, ‘They didn’t vote for it,’” said Dan DeVito, operations supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department and chairman of the Westport Football Association. “But this is good news. It’s surreal.”

The P&Z closed its public hearing on the matter early Thursday evening and approved it in a work session at 11 p.m.

Proponents had petitioned for lights since 1978, and through the decades their plans had been blocked by neighbors concerned about noise and light trespass onto their properties at night.

Thursday night’s approval followed a P&Z okay last November of a stipulation agreement involving neighbors who had filed suit in Stamford Superior Court more than two years ago, the Parks and Recreation Department, and the Board of Education.

Under the approval, the four lights, two mounted on 80-foot poles and two on 70-foot ones, would be used only for September through December evening practices and eight playoff games. Sound and light runoff to neighbors would be monitored and reviewed by a four-member committee, two of them neighbors.

“It was good to hear about it,” said Andy Moss, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission. “We weren’t sure when they would vote. It’s a huge relief, and it feels good that the town is getting something it sought for a long time. I’m happy for the kids.”

During his presentation to the P&Z, Moss said that the only thing Westport has not provided in terms of athletics to its youth was the experience of a night home game.

“The first documents I saw were dated 1978,” Moss said, “and I was there five years ago when we started the latest push.

“The town included it in the 2007 Town Plan of Conservation and Development,” he added. “It included support for lights. That was a milestone.”

Moss said the drive has been a team effort, but he especially credited Stuart McCarthy, Parks and Recreation director.

Marty Liscevick, Staples athletic director, agreed.

“I remember sitting down with Stuart 11 years ago and asking if this was even possible,” Lisevick said. “And want to thank the Board of Education for getting behind it, Schools Superintendent Dr. (Elliott) Landon, Donald O’Day (school board chairman) and Jim Marpe (vice chairman) who spoke last night.

“It’s been a long road, no question,”  he added. “I look forward to construction this summer.”

DeVito is working with Pat Kelly, director of the Gridiron Club currently raising $600,000 to pay for the lights and to construct a concession stand.

Called the Staples Stadium Fundraising Project located at www.staplesstadiumproject.com, the effort has $175,000 pledged so far, DeVito said.

“I think (the approval)  will make it a lot easier to raise the rest of the money,” he said, noting that uncertainty might have deterred donors.

DeVito noted that the decades long delays caused increased costs for the project.

“When I started in 1994, the lights would have cost us $110,000,” he said. “Now it’s $329,000.”

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