Lights are back on at Roots

The Westfield Planning Board hears from a resident during the Roots Athletic Center lights discussion (The Westfield News)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – In spite of several residents speaking in opposition, the city’s planning board approved a repetitive petition from Roots Athletic Center for the use of outdoor lighting.

The planning board held a public hearing on the outdoor lighting used on the outdoor artificial turf fields at the athletic center on Root Road. The application for the lights was previously denied by the board and according to board chair Philip McEwan, Roots was applying again for the use of the lights. Changes were made to the lights in order to attempt to alleviate concerns of residents, who claimed that light pollution was disturbing their residences, and these changes were relayed to the board in hopes of allowing their use again.

Before the hearing occurred though, the board needed “all but one member of the planning board” to vote in favor of the hearing before it continued, according to McEwan. The vote was unanimous to continue.

According to Michael P. Ryan, attorney and representative that spoke on Roots’ behalf at the hearing, three significant changes were made to the lighting to address concerns.

According to Ryan, there were zero foot-candles—a measurement of illumination—measured at several of the property’s boundaries on two separate occasions, shrouds were installed on all of the lights and the hourly usage was reduced from until 10:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. from December to February.

Despite the remedies done though, residents were concerned.

Among the worries was that only half of the lighting was installed thus far, according to the representatives of Roots at the meeting. Residents spoke out about the additional lights coming, worried that it could increase the light pollution.

“There’s still lights to go up, this could be double,” ward one city councilor Mary Ann Babinski said.

The representatives for Roots though, said that the shrouds would be put on all lights, and an independent study would be occurring to measure the amount of light coming to the boundaries to determine how impactful it may be on residents.

Additional complaints came in about the potential for noise pollution and traffic that is still occurring in the area. Part of those complaints came in regards to the hours of operation, which would potentially be from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, from March until November, and 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., seven days a week, from December to February. The concerns were that “yelling” and “whistles” occurring at the field would cause noise pollution to abutters.

“It is a residential neighborhood across the street, we’re sorry, they were there first,” Babinski said.

In spite of the residents’ protests, the board voted to unanimously allow the use and continuation of the lights and the associated permit.