SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- The possibility of installing lights Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School football field brought out supporters and opponents to the Thursday, Jan. 30, SPFK12 Board of Education meeting. Many of the opponents to the installation of lights are residents of Old Farm Road, which runs alongside the high school fields.
Diane Schweizer, a resident of Old Farm Road, has collected 25 signatures on a petition against the installation of lights at the high school. Mrs. Schweizer explained that among the residents' concerns are the length of time that school-related activities would stretch into the evening, parking issues (cars blocking driveways), the possibility that the school might rent out the fields to non-residents, and that people would litter on front lawns of homes.
"You are not considering the neighbors who will directly be effected. Yes it's great for the school, but they're not living on our street. It is impacting our neighborhood," said Mrs. Schweizer, who said she had two children who went through the high school and played sports and music. "It's great for the athletes, but it's impacting our every day life. If you are going to do this, you have to inform the neighbors."
Other residents took to the mic to express similar concerns.
"We don't have objection to the lighting itself. We live with the band practicing. With the advent of these lights, there will be more events and more congestion. With more events, more activities, it will reach a tipping point," said Pat Citera, a 30-year resident of Old Farm Road. "Walk a mile in our shoes. We have a lot of trepidations and fear about what this is going to bring."
However, not every Old Farm Road resident opposes the lights.
"One of the biggest needs is fields in the community is... the lack of field time for our athletes (football, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey and track & field). Lights with two fields would fulfill that need. You have thousands of young athletes and not enough quality field time," said Rob Harmer, a former coach, AD and assistant principal at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High and an active coach in the community. "Not to mention our world-class marching band that practices on a grass field under parking lights. Don't these musicians deserve also deserve a first-class field to practice on?"
Harmer added that lights can be timed to turn off at 9:30 p.m, and will help create a sense of community.
"I bought a house next to a field... If I didn't like it, I can always put a For Sale sign on my lawn and make a huge profit on a very desirable house," Harmer said.
"It will push into our evenings. Why isn't being considered the impact on our streets every night?" asked Kevin McSherry, who spoke after Mr. Harmer. "It's not going to be just the high school sports. It's going to be the revenue-generating opportunity with those lights. If you install the lights, you are going to use them. You invested the money, you're going to use them. ... Our street will become your parking lot. Are you considering the impact?"
Supporters included former Scotch Plains Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella, Jack Manville, a captain of the football team, and Matt Tibbals, president of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Athletic Boosters,
"(The revenue generation) will help the Booster program. It will help offset the cost of pay-for-play sports for some of our athletes," said Matt Tibbals. "I don't know what your life is like, and I do get to go home. I'm sure we can work with the police to address your concerns."
"I don't mean to disrespect you, but the entire community will benefit," Tibbals added. "Mayor Mahr and Mayor Smith are behind this, and they will work to minimize the impact on your street."
On January 23, the BOE saw a presentation on proposed lighting for the high school field from Bob Zoeller of Musco Sports Lighting, one of the local leaders in the field.
Zoeller explained that advances in LED lighting technology that cut down on glare and pinpoint the lighting to specific perimeters of the field while brightening the entire playing surface. He also listed a number of local high schools and parks that use his company's lighting technology.
To view the video of the Jan. 30, 2020 BOE meeting, as well as Mr. Zoeller's presentation on Jan. 23, 2020, click the links below.
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