St. Mark’s withdrawing field lighting requests; taking time to address concerns before trying again

Above: St. Mark’s School is pulling its field lighting plans to consider mitigation details for a future application down the road. (image cropped from plans)

St. Mark’s School withdrew its applications for tall lighting at Clark Field.

The school had filed with three boards approvals related to installing lights on 70 foot poles. At the first night of Planning Board public hearings, board members raised some questions. Following the meeting, the Southborough Historical Society sent a letter objecting to the project. On Monday, the school wrote to Planning, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Conservation Commission to explain that it would be pulling the project for now.

The letter states that the school will take a couple of years to fully consider details. The administration hopes to resubmit a plan in the future that addresses concerns like parking and aesthetics.

While residents opposed to light pollution may be pleased by the decision, some hoping for more field access for town sports may be disappointed. CFO Robert Kuklewicz wrote:

Our plan was to allow for increased practice and game time for our students but also for other community groups. This would include the Town’s own recreation department as well. Our entire St. Mark’s community was excited about this project and we were excited to share our plans with your Board and the Town.

As for the decision to pull the applications, Kuklewicz wrote that the school “listened carefully” to Planning members’ concerns:

We heard the concerns regarding potential impact both aesthetically and environmentally. While we do feel the latest generation of lights are truly more compliant, in terms of light pollution and related spillover, we understand the concerns from the Board around these issues. We also understand the need to ensure we are mitigating any other issues, such as parking and timing of use, especially through the winter months. Therefore, we would like to take the time to properly address each issue and put together a more fully articulated plan for implementation and use and as a result, we are respectfully withdrawing our application at this time.

We want to let you know we heard the Board and others, including the Southborough Historical Society for example, and again, plan to take time over the next couple of years to formulate and further develop additional ideas to mitigate concerns, such as complementing lighting with plantings as screening, for example. (Click here for a copy of one of the letters.)

Despite the reference Southborough Historical Society, a St. Mark’s School’s representative countered a characterization that the school reacted to “pressure from residents”. Director of Communications Caleb Cochran wrote today that the decision was a result of the Planning Board members’ questions and concerns.

SHS’s president Michael Weishan had positioned the school’s decision as a victory for citizen advocates. He posted the following announcement yesterday, shared with email followers:

Under Pressure from Residents, St. Mark’s Withdraws Light Plans

I am extremely pleased to be able to share with you the news that the Planning Board has received a letter from St. Mark’s withdrawing their application to install night lighting on the historic Clark field. The letter went on to state that St Mark’s would take a look at the project over the next several years with an eye to addressing residents concerns. So for now, blessed darkness reigns, thanks again to citizenry advocacy. Next step, getting some hoods on the lights at Woodward and putting a “use only” policy in place that turns off the current automatic timer that illuminates the fields (at taxpayer expense) regardless of whether anyone actually IS on the field, and replacing it with a simple on off switch for use during official activities.

Congratulations to all the residents of Southborough on this one!

Issues over the Choate Field lighting at Woodward were also referenced by Planning Board’s Meme Luttrell at the Clark Field hearing. 

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4 years ago

St. Mark’s get its share of criticism from us.
It’s only fair to acknowledge their responsiveness to concerns raised by citizens and Town Boards over these new field lights.
When their new plans are re-submitted, their willingness to share these lighted fields with the community will provide a welcome addition to our inventory of available fields.

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