Marion Planning Board reviews Tabor Academy athletic lights

Nov 5, 2019

MARION — Tabor Academy will try again to install 90-foot lights for its main athletic field, after a court ruled that it could.

A court case between the school and the Zoning Board of Appeals over lights on Spring Street ended with the Plymouth Superior Court ruling that the school has the power to use the Dover Ammendment, which allows nonprofits to build without a permit this time.The court said the case should come before the Zoning Board again with this amendment as the focus. 

Tabor first looked to construct the lights on its main athletic field in 2011, under previous Head of School Jay Stroud.

Though that request was eventually dropped amid protests from neighbors and town officials, the school submitted similar proposal in May 2018. Hearings on the permit application were held monthly from June to October and Tabor reached out to abutters on their concerns, but the zoning board unanimously voting to deny the permit in October 2018. Tabor Academy then filed suit against the Zoning Board of Appeals in December 2018 to allow the construction of the lights.

Nothing has changed about the third plan except the legal approach that the school will take in advocating for it. Tabor still plans to install five 90 foot lights, which will minimize the glare more than shorter lights. 

As a result, the Planning Board found not much had changed since June 2018, when it said it was concerned about more use with lights, parking, pedestrian safety, traffic on surrounding streets, noise, light pollution and other adverse effects on residents.

Planning Board member Chis Collings seemed frustrated by the lack of change in the plans. “There was a lot of conversation and verbal commitments in this room contrary to what this document says,” Collings said.

It is unclear which promises Collings was referring to from the school.

Former Planning Board member, Stephen Kokkins said he thought the board should also consider the schedule for the lights as part of the approval.

Tabor previously specified it would use the lights for six to eight evening games and one or two community events in spring and fall, and for late practices in November. The academy said lights would be out by 9 p.m.

The Zoning Board will address the issue at a Nov. 14 meeting.