Thoughts on Nov. 14 meeting on Tabor playing field lights

Nov 17, 2019

To the Editor:

Two of [Marion’s] three Selectmen were able to attend the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting last Thursday evening at which Tabor was seeking approval for lights on their playing field along Spring St.  Due to the open meeting rules, I have not discussed the meeting with either of my fellow Selectmen, so what I express here is my personal opinion and not official. Between speakers and letters, I would say approximately as many people spoke in favor of the lights as against them.  Several people, including two abutters, made very gracious comments regarding Tabor and their importance to the community.

I was surprised by the animosity shown towards Tabor by some of those opposed to the lights.  Maybe at some point Tabor did something to harm them personally, but I would be curious to learn what. Many people speak to me about the need for Tabor to do more for the Town and your Selectmen certainly share that desire. But, the path to convincing Tabor to do more for the Town financially is by building bridges and trying to work with Tabor when they have clearly identified needs such as lights on their playing field.  We will not succeed at this when people come across as opposing Tabor simply because they are Tabor and by speaking disrespectfully to their Head of School, John Quirk.

I also suspect that several people, who were most adamantly against the lights Thursday night, would be on the other side of that argument if the lights were proposed for the Sippican School or ORR fields.

Tabor clearly believes the lights will help them better manage their sports schedule and to carry out their educational mission. I personally believe athletic programs at all schools have an important educational purpose for our children and it is nitpicking to try to somehow argue that lights won’t help Tabor provide its students a better athletic experience.

Others spoke Thursday night as if there is Tabor and there is Marion and Marion should be looking out for Marion pure and simply, and not bend in any way to accommodate Tabor. The reality is that Tabor is part of Marion and an integral part of our community. They are one of our neighbors and we should be focused, as a Town, on improving our relationship with Tabor and making them feel they are a welcomed member of our community. At times that will require we, as a Town, compromise.

By the way, these are lights that probably few us of us will notice once they are installed.  Between now and the next hearing on Dec. 12, I suggest Marion residents focus on the telephone poles, in particular, the tops of telephone poles.  (If driving, please do so while keeping your eyes on the road.) Telephone poles are typically 40 feet to 45 feet high. Pretty quickly you will notice our streets are lined with telephone poles and that the top of literally everyone, loaded with wires and transformers, is extremely unattractive.  More than one of you will say “wow” I never noticed how many ugly telephone poles there are around Town. That is because we don’t walk or drive around looking up.

Tabor is proposing to put up four 90-foot high light poles on their playing field along Spring Street.  At that height with today’s LED technology, when turned on, the lights will cause little or no light pollution, so that should not be of concern.  What about the light poles themselves? If it takes a conscious effort for us to focus on the tops of 45-foot telephone poles, how hard and how often will we have to look up to see the top of these 90-foot poles?  For sure, we will need to make a conscious effort to see the tops these four light poles. And over time, as we go about our business in Town, not normally looking up, we will forget the light poles are there. Yes, from certain angles, such as sitting on your boat in the harbor, you will be able to see the tops of the light poles, but, even then, they will not jump out at you, because the light arrays are relatively small and grey, blending in with the sky.  And, when they are turned on, the light is directed straight down, so they virtually are not visible from the side.

Let’s work with Tabor to help them get their lights approved. Tabor is willing to sit down and agree to conditions on the use of the lights to minimize any inconvenience to the neighborhood.

John P. Waterman
Board of Selectmen, Marion