The Worcester Township Board of Supervisors had a full agenda at the Dec. 19 regular meeting. However, with approximately 20 or more members of the Methacton School Community, including representatives of the school board, Methacton High School and school sports organizations, in attendance at the meeting, one particular agenda item was moved to the top of the list.
The item was a vote to approve the advertisement to adopt a proposed township ordinance, known as the “Lighting Ordinance,” [see .pdf gallery] which would enable the construction of stadium lights at the Methacton High School athletic field.
At the meeting, the board unanimously voted to approve the advertisement, setting in motion the process of approving construction for the field lights.
“I think that all parties do need to see the ordinance at this point,” Susan Caughlin, board vice-chair, said. “The best way to get the ordinance out to all of the public, all the interested parties, and to have them be able to look at it, and comment on it, is to authorize the ordinance for advertisement.”
According to board chairman Arthur Bustard, the proposed ordinance advertisement would be the first in a series of legal procedures that the supervisors must follow, as mandated by state law.
Bustard explained that the advertisement would last for 30 days, after which time, the board would then hold a public hearing to openly discuss details of the proposed ordinance.
The board could then vote to approve, deny or further consider the ordinance.
Should the board consider it further, the ordinance would then be discussed at a later meeting. Should it be denied, in the case that the board of supervisors decide to change any portion of the proposed ordinance, the board would have to vote to re-advertise and repeat the process - or drop the matter altogether.
“It’s thus incumbent upon the supervisors that the ordinance we must vote to advertise represents a good-faith effort that has the possibility of being passed,” Bustard said. “Rather than wasting hundreds of dollars in repeat advertising.”
Should the board approve the ordinance, the school district must then ask the township for approval to erect the stadium lights at a conditional-use hearing. This hearing goes directly before the board of supervisors.
“They will provide the township with what they consider to be a reasonable field-use policy, which they will adhere to, going forward,” Bustard said.
He noted that the Methacton School District superintendent Dr. Timothy Quinn had been meeting with residents, who live adjacent to the athletic field. Together, they worked on a document-agreement that may influence the district’s field-use policy.
Quinn presented this document to the Methacton School Board at its Oct. 16 regular meeting. The document is titled “Approval Conditions for Lights on Athletic Fields at Methacton High School.”
Bustard added that the supervisors can place certain restrictions of use, on conditions of the field and field activities as part of the conditional-use application process.
The Lighting Ordinance
As written in the notice of advertisement [see media gallery above], the proposed ordinance will amend the township’s “Exterior Lighting” code, “to permit an increase in the height of exterior lighting on the grounds of certain properties.”
The current code regulates illumination to no more than 12-feet in height. The remaining sections of the ordinance provide further regulations concerning illumination and field use.
While the Dec. 19 vote was only for the purpose of advertising the proposed ordinance, Bustard did highlight some sections that the board discussed during work session meetings earlier this month.
“We focused our attention on making sure that the illumination is focused on the field and the glare from that illumination is minimized to the extent possible,” Bustard said.
He particularly pointed to section B of the proposed ordinance. In this section, specific regulations address concerns such as:
- The setback of the lighting standards to ensure that the illumination cannot fall on neighboring properties
- Hiring of a certified lighting professional to ensure the preventable light or glare spillover to adjacent properties
- Intensity of the illumination at the minimum safe level that’s appropriate for activities on the field.
- Lighting system fitted with automatic and manual adjustment and override controls.
- The township hiring its own engineer to verify that the school district has followed specifications found in the ordinance.
"All Residents Should Be Involved"
Some regulations within the ordinance shared similar concerns with the conditional-use document Quinn had presented to the school board, as both particularly addressed time and frequency of illumination, as well as noise during illuminated events.
At the Oct. 16 Methacton School Board meeting, some of the board members voiced concern over the conditional-use document being too restrictive for the district’s administration.
Worcester supervisor Stephen Quigley, at the Dec. 19 meeting, shared his own concerns about the conditional uses of the field, referring to certain Worcester residents who suggested such uses to both the school district and the townships.
“I think the township is going down a slippery slope when you allow a group of residents to set an agenda, write policy for the township. I have a problem with that,” Quigley said. “All residents should be involved with this.”
The public hearing is expected to take place at the next regular Worcester Township Board of Supervisors regular meeting in January.
To see the advertisement of the proposed ordinance, as well as the ordinance itself, click through the media gallery above.