Planning board voted to deny outdoor lighting at Roots Athletic Center

The denial means that the lights will now be off and will not be allowed to be used

The outdoor lighting is seen to be reflecting off another neighboring house at night. (Photo from Heidi Leonard/The Westfield News)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – The City of Westfield’s planning board listened to the residents Tuesday night and voted to deny outdoor light usage at Roots Athletic Center.

The planning board voted nearly unanimously, with one dissenting vote, to deny the amendment proposed by Roots for the outdoor lights. The denial means that the lights will now be off and will not be allowed to be used, pending the decision being filed in the coming days. Roots will be able to appeal the decision if they so choose.

“I am happy that the residents got up there and made their requests because they know what kind of issues this is creating for them,” Ward 1 councilor Mary Ann Babinski, said. “And I’m happy that the planning board listened and made a vote on it last night instead of continuing this again.”

The lighting issue, which had dozens of residents turning out repeatedly at planning board meetings to discuss, had previously been continued on at least three occasions, and even drew visits to the affected homes in the area by the planning board.

Jay Vinskey, principal planner for Westfield, said that the board decided to vote on the lighting issue because of its severity but other discussions, which included crumb rubber use under artificial turf, noise and parking, were “minor” and could be resolved “without formal hearing.”

From the Barnes Aquifer Protective Advisory Committee (BAPAC) side though, the concerns of crumb rubber over the Barnes aquifer has been one that they have been going back against. BAPAC has previously sent a letter of concern to the planning board and has pushed for greater testing and more studies to be done on what sort of effects the crumb rubber may have on the groundwater. Studies have suggested that there could be links between crumb rubber and human health and environmental risks previously, and more research is being done, both nationally and in other states.

Vinskey said that regarding BAPAC’s concerns, there was already language in the original proposal for this, which was already accepted in January 2015.

“There are protections in the original approval for groundwater monitoring so those will still apply,” he said.

Vinskey also said that if Roots owners wanted to re-apply for outdoor lighting they could, but not with the refused proposal.

“If they want to propose the same thing, no, they would have to make a substantial change as proposed by the planning board,” Vinskey said. “If they came back with the same proposal they would have to wait two years.”