The community support, countless meetings and reams of information on field usage led Scarsdale Board of Trustees to vote 6 to 1 Sept. 24 to move forward with the project to install permanent lights at Butler Field at Scarsdale High School.
In June, the Scarsdale Board of Education approved a memorandum of understanding that the athletic booster organization Maroon & White will fundraise to cover more of the costs of the project.
The village board had to vote as well because Butler Field is owned by the village and leased to the school district.
At the Sept. 10 and Sept. 24 board of trustees meetings, residents, including student athletes, came out in droves to voice their support for the lights, citing school spirit, a sense of community, longer practices and family time as among the reasons to move the project forward.
And, the addition of lights would allow for other sports teams to utilize the space for practice when rain or other issues affect the use of grass fields around town.
Claire Paquin of Harcourt Road said she didn’t believe there would be any traffic difficulties if the lights were approved, a concern that’s been voiced by opponents to the proposal.
Paquin, also the president of the Scarsdale Youth Lacrosse Association, said getting the chance to use the turf field if rain causes practice to be cancelled would allow more practice time.
Dr. Stephen Nicholas, a Heathcote Road resident whose children all played sports in Scarsdale, said the project would lead to an enhanced sense of community.
“We don’t want to upset neighbors, but I think the fear mongering that an 8 or 9 o’clock game will change lives needs to be treated with practicality,” he said.
Kate Conlan, co-president of Maroon & White, also spoke in favor of the lights at the Sept. 10 meeting.
“Having permanent lights on Butler Field with a late usage regulation that provides appropriate flexibility to use lights when needed due to weather is a huge benefit to Scarsdale student athletes who otherwise would be denied chances to hold practices on grass fields,” she said.
Conlan also said the lights set to be installed at Butler Field are the best option with a low carbon footprint. The proposed lights would be on four 80-foot poles, all using LED lights.
The alternative was a six-pole design, with each being 70 feet tall and costing an estimated $65,000 each.
As the process went on, the school athletic director set forth guidelines, including a plan to maintain a field use hotline for the public to communicate field use concerns to the school district; a plan to establish a Butler Field Advisory Committee should the district wish to amend the regulations regarding the use of the lights; and the purchase and installation of the Butler Field lights which will be similar to the quantity, type, make and model depicted by the school district and presented to the Scarsdale Planning Board.
Additional regulations are listed on the village website.
Some residents, however, were concerned about noise that could come with the installation of a new sound system, which is also part of the Butler Field improvement plan.
Cheryl Felton of Rectory Lane said approving the lights would make practices and games more frequent, which would increase the likelihood of noise.
“In our home, when the PA system comes on now, we can clearly hear it,” she said. “It’s a burden for us when the noise comes into our house.”
However, the plan is to have a sound system that restricts noise onto the field and prevents sound pollution.
When it came time for the trustees to vote, they all shared their thought process behind their vote.
Trustee Justin Arest chose to abstain from voting and said the matter was sent to the planning board and, when they heard back from the committee, he said he heard the committee’s response was limited.
“The information didn’t include the impact, therefore the planning board couldn’t evaluate or make recommendations,” Arest said. “I would appreciate another chance to meet.”
He said he wanted more discussion to take place with the residents who felt they would be negatively impacted, but he said he sees the benefits of the lights and that they are something they should give to their children.
However, because Arest felt there were issues with the process, he said that’s why he chose to abstain from voting.
His fellow trustees and Mayor Marc Samwick all voted in favor of the lights.
Trustee Lena Crandall said she wanted more opportunities for kids to go out at night to a safe event. She also said in her statement in favor of the lights that the usage and other regulations must be taken seriously.
“I think it’s been a transparent, respectful and balanced conversation,” said Trustee Jon Lewis. “We listened to both sides and that’s important.”
Trustee Jane Veron said, given the extensive conversation, input and iteration, it was time to move the project forward. While she was sensitive to the community’s needs, Veron said she was confident the guidelines would allow for an opportunity to address concerns.
Athletic Director Ray Pappalardi said he hopes trips will be scheduled to visit Iona College and Edgemont to see the sound system and lights at the respective sites. These visits will be open to the public and will happen at some point in October.
“We’re picking up all the pieces to move forward,” Pappalardi said.