Tabor to host informal meeting on athletic field lighting

Jan 22, 2018

The administration at Tabor Academy is again considering adding lights to the school's athletic fields -- a project that has caused controversy with neighbors for the better part of a decade.

Town officials and the private high school's administration had butted heads about the project -- which included turf fields, lighting, and a backstop -- since 2011.

Head of School John Quirk, who inherited the problem from Jay Stroud when he took the reins in 2012, is hosting an informational meeting for neighbors on Thursday, January 25, at 7 p.m. in Tabor Academy's Lillard Living Room.

Administrators had originally intended to build four, 90-foot stadium lights to illuminate the fields. They cited the Dover Law, a law that exempts schools from most bylaws, Residents objected, saying the lights would be a nuisance to those living in the area. Building Commissioner Scott Shippey denied permits for the lights, saying they violated Marion's height bylaws.

"Over the past few months, I've shared my thoughts with various people, my hope being to understand the complicated history of past light proposals and to ascertain what the reaction to such a request might be," Quirk wrote in a letter to neighbors. "At the same time we've researched a host of issues related to such projects—from the products available to us, to the appropriate lighting levels, to the appropriate safeguards against unnecessary impact to others."

In 2016, after withdrawing the school's appeal of the building commissioner's decision to deny the permit for the backstop at the fields, Quirk vowed to work with the town in future athletic field endeavors. It appears he is making good on that promise.

"I believe we can make a good and appropriate approach to the town for the special permit we might require," Quirk wrote in the letter to neighbors, "but I don't think we could or would reasonably proceed without hearing other perspectives."

Quirk told Sippican Week that administrators have "a lot of ideas" when it comes to lighting -- and he intends to start from scratch with new plans.

"The last time we tried to do lighting, it got off on the wrong foot. We'd like the chance to have a conversation with neighbors about what might be the best way for everyone—Tabor and town residents—to benefit from field lighting," Quirk said. "We'd like to hear it if there are any concerns, so we can talk about it."

With so many options, he said, and with the chance to involve residents from the very beginning, he is hopeful that a solution can be found.