School board revives legal battle over athletic field lights

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) — After pushing back school start time, the Greenwich school board is gearing up to revive a nearly two-decade-old legal battle to expand lighting at its athletic fields.

The Greenwich Board of Education voted Thursday to prepare for litigation to modify court restrictions on lighting at the Greenwich High School fields now that the start time is later, the Greenwich Time reported. At the hearing, several parents and school officials also described a need for more lighting given that the days are getting shorter.

The affluent shoreline town on the New York state line already went through this more than a decade ago. When it sought to install taller light poles in 2000, it set off a yearslong debate involving the school board and town zoning officials. Ultimately, a court ruling permitted the high school to use the lights at its football stadium for 10 athletic games and six practices a year.

But school officials said they had to revisit the issue because student athletes have less daylight at the end of the school day now that classes begin and end an hour later than they did last year. The school system has looked into using a field at the State University of New York at Purchase for team practices but details have not been finalized, district spokeswoman Kimberley Eves said.

Bill Effros, a neighbor who led opposition to the taller light poles, is now vowing to relaunch a million-dollar campaign to restrict the use of lights that he says shine too brightly into nearby homes.

Effros lives next to the high school and settled multiple lawsuits against the Board of Education in 2003. The agreements called for the school to limit the number of games and practices they could use the lights.

In an email to town officials Thursday Effros said if Greenwich and the Board of Education try to change this agreement, he will take the issue to the Stamford Superior Court. He said he would seek reimbursement of legal costs that he expects will exceed $1 million.

Education Board Chairman Peter Sherr said it has been discussing possible legal action over the lighting situation in executive sessions over the course of a year.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that Greenwich team practices have not yet been held at SUNY Purchase.

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Information from: Greenwich Time, http://www.greenwichtime.com