Temporary Field Lights Proposed For Winn Brook, PQ Grounds Heads To Select Board

Photo: (foreground) Charlie Conway, president of Belmont Youth Soccer, at a community meeting on field lights at Winn Brook playground.

After a pair of bruising meetings with skeptical neighbors on Wednesday night, July 24, the Belmont Recreation Commission unanimously approved allowing Belmont Youth Soccer to install temporary field lights at Winn Brook Elementary School and Pequossette (PQ) Field for approximately 10 weeks this fall.

The set of four lights will illuminate a 80 yard by 80-yard area for up to two hours until 8:30 p.m. beginning on the first week of September and lasting until early November as part of a pilot program.

“We will bring this [decision to allow lights until 8:30 p.m. weekdays] to the Select Board with the commission’s approval,” said Jon Marshall, assistant town administrator and Recreation Department director.

The commission did place conditions on the proposed permit that echoed resident’s major concerns by prohibiting diesel-generated lights which neighbors to the field considered too noisy and a potential source of air pollution.

In addition, the commission will suggest the Select Board begin a discussion that would lead to the lights being rotated to other play spaces, Town Field and Grove Street Playground, allowing fields to rest and regenerate the grass playing surfaces.

The lights request by Belmont Youth Soccer is an unintended consequence of the new Belmont Middle and High School, said Charlie Conroy, BYS president, who made the presentation to the committee and public at the Beech Street Center on Wednesday, July 24.

Recreation Commission Chair Anthony Ferrante with member Marsha Semuels responding to residents concerns.

With the school’s long-standing practice fields ripped up as the land is being prepared for construction, high school athletic teams will train on town fields and playgrounds (field hockey will be at Winn Brook, Girls’ Soccer at Grove Street and Boys’ Soccer at PQ) from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., dislodging the youth league which has 1,500 players between kindergarten and eighth grade.

The four lights will allow teams of older players, about 40 in 7th and 8th grade, to practice well after dusk. “We will not light up the whole field just a specific part” of the playgrounds,” said Conway.

In addition, said Conway, Youth Soccer is also renting a field at Belmont Day School for $25,000 to supplement the playgrounds already being used this fall.

At both meetings, held consecutively, residents immediately pointed to the impact of diesel-powered lights on the quality of life of the neighborhood.

The fumes from the engines will prevent nearby residents from opening their windows “and that is completely unacceptable,” said Sherman Street’s Linda Matthews, who also pointed to the likelihood of light pollution from their use.

Conway said there are alternatives to diesel generated power sources including solar and electrical. But unlike the diesel machines which can be rented, the alternatives have to be purchased.

“And what we need from the town is a five year commitment to this plan for us to make this investment,” said Conway.

As much as the fumes, residents protested the diesel lights adding “another audio assault,” in the Winn Brook area, said Joanne Adduci of Hoitt Road. “Our chances to sit outside will be gone,” she said from the loud hum of the running motors.

Attendees at both sessions pointed to possible additional traffic, the noise of kids playing past nightfall and the location of the lights along abutters – at PQ it totaled 45 houses and 90 families – homes rather than closer to the center of the grounds.

Rose O’Neil, a Precinct 4 town meeting member from Maple Street adjacent to PQ, said as a member of the Friends of PQ Park, when the playground at the park was being developed this year, lighting was prohibited to prevent constant use.

“There has to be time for the residents … who are not part of league,” said O’Neil, seeking to preserve the park as “a communal place.”

“I love that feel,” she said.

While Conway and members of the commission attempted to reassure the residents that their concerns were being listened to, some in attendance didn’t have the same faith in the responses.

“With all due respect, is this a done deal? Do we get a fair shake,” said a resident.

After the end of the night’s meetings, the commission moved to approve the permit with the conditions against diesel use.

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  1. Andrea Masciari says

    I can’t believe the Belmont Day School is charging $25000 for use of their playground. Shameless.

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