WESTFIELD, NJ – After digesting a presentation from the Westfield Soccer Association and opinions of residents, the Westfield Board of Education approved the use of temporary lighting at Kehler Field during its meeting on Tuesday.
The program, originally run as a pilot in March of 2015, was pitched to the board once again with new conditions.
In an attempt to stay within parameters set by former board president and facilities committee chair, Rich Mattessich, WSA trustee Peter Franks submitted plans to reduce the number of lights from four to three along with adequate shielding.
Residents of Grove Street, Everson Place and streets surrounding Gary Kehler Stadium voiced their displeasure of the lights – even with new conditions – due to the height of the lamps, time of use and their inadequate buffers.
“We bought our property knowing there was going to be traffic in the morning, there was going to be activities behind our house in the stadium – much of which is enjoyable. It’s kids’ sounds, it’s life, it’s vitality. It’s wonderful,” Dan Bottorff, a resident of Grove Street, said. “But we’re talking about night time. How would you like lights in your backyard for hours, even if it’s only two months a year?”
According to current facilities chair Brendan Galligan, the temporary lights would be used three nights a week from 7:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in March and April.
Neighbors also questioned Mr. Franks’ claim of high school students benefiting from the lights, sharing the discontent from coaches who practiced late into the night.
Members of the Kehler Neighborhood Preservation Committee expressed concern with the board’s lack of consideration given to the neighborhood and asked that temporary lights not become permanent.
“From my perspective, significant consideration has been given to the neighbors,” Board President Gretchan Ohlig said. “When we went through this process in 2015, there were multiple meetings afterwards trying to assess the success of the pilot program and we’ve had many public meetings where everyone’s views were heard and welcome.”
In their final judgment, the board looked back to the resulting parameters set forth in September of 2015, saying the WSA has met all of their expectations.
Galligan shared his opinion, saying he is personally against the lights, but must recommend that the pilot moves forward.
In the spring of 2016, no lights were used at Kehler Field after a legal letter was issued to the board. No response was ever given and the WSA reportedly “overloaded” the available fields in Westfield.