A legacy, tarnished?

Tuesday December 18, 2012

What was supposed to be a final act of kindness to local schoolkids turned into a lightning rod earlier this year, when an abutting resident to the Bellows Falls Union High School complained about the brightness of the new field lights at Hadley Field.

The lights were funded through the financial holding of Alvin Southwick, who died in the summer of 2011. Prior to his death, Southwick asked longtime friend Frederick Yates to help him put together his final will and testament. The Bellows Falls High School was one of about a dozen groups to benefit from Southwick’s kindness.

While some local residents have directed their ire toward the sole complainant in the case, for the Westminster Development Review Board to revoke a town-issued permit for the lights, to us that hardly seems fair. The fact of the matter is that sometimes, no matter how much due diligence is done prior to a project moving forward, there are sometimes unforeseen side-effects. And sometimes it’s the due diligence that’s lacking.

At a meeting of the buildings and grounds committee in September, Yates claimed to have visited every residence that might be affected by the lights and told the Reformer no one had a problem with them. However, the resident in question did, in February and March, write letters of concern to the town (mainly expressing concern about potential traffic). As it turns out, it was the brightness of the lights, along with the fact that this new light source had attracted much more bugs to her property, which caused the most problems. Those sound like reasonable complaints to us.

However, it’s not her complaints which ultimately cast -- or should we say re-cast -- Hadley Field in darkness. As it turns out, the contractor hired to erect the lights did not ensure all necessary permits were in order prior to installation.

You see, while Yates received a permit from the Westminster DRB, he was unaware he needed an additional permit from the state under Act 250, which more than likely would have also required an additional land use permit.

Why this information did not seem to get communicated to Yates remains a mystery.

So, is it the glare from the lights, the structural integrity of the project, a lack of permits or a frustrated resident? More than anything, it sounds like a breakdown in communication to us.

It’s clear the students enjoyed playing night games this past year ... and really, we’re sure that, more than anything, Mr. Southwick was trying to do something nice for the students. Luckily we’re in the midst of winter, and it will be several months before those lights are missed. In the meantime, we hope communication can continue and progress made to ensure a resolution can be found to keep all interested parties satisfied.


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