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Paradise Valley Town Council dims light on Chaparral lights debate

Posted 5/14/21

The glowing topic about the new stadium lights installed on the Chaparral High School varsity baseball and softball fields has shone dimly at a recent Paradise Valley Town Council meeting.

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Paradise Valley Town Council dims light on Chaparral lights debate

Posted

The glowing topic about the new stadium lights installed on the Chaparral High School varsity baseball and softball fields has shone dimly at a recent Paradise Valley Town Council meeting.

The new lights at Chaparral have been on interest to those who live nearby in recent weeks, as a neighborhood coalition has formed to oppose the use. Soon after, the topic found its way onto the May 13 Town Council agenda as a discussion item, per the initial request of council member Julie Pace.

During the meeting, the council members, along with Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner noted a “consensus — zero” to initiate any action related to the lights.

“I heard a consensus of stay the course and continue to be great partners with each other. Hopefully we can all work together,” Mayor Bien-Willner said after hearing comments from the council.

He and other members not only praised the relationship the municipality has with the Scottsdale Unified School District but the anonymous person who donated the $500,000 for the sports fields despite the concerns of a group formed called “3 Strikes: Lights, Noise, and Traffic” objecting to the lights.

While the Town of Paradise Valley, however, has possibly reported receiving one complaint from a resident and a council member, emails provided to the Independent concur that town officials consider it a mute issue, as stressed by the mayor stated at the meeting.

Councilmember Paul Dembow was among those who questioned why the matter was placed on the agenda.

“This is crazy. Why are we discussing this. We have so many other things to do instead of wasting our time with this,” Mr. Dembow said. “Why are we sticking our nose in their business?”

Noting how that goes with the territory if “you move next to a high school with a sporting field,” Mr. Dembow called SUSD great neighbors.

After background was shared about what led up to the stadium lights installation, from the donor to the public meetings held, including specifics about the benefits of the donated lights, council members agreed no action was necessary despite Ms. Pace’s initial concerns following up to alleged complaints.

Options presented to the council members, according to the town’s staff report, included:

  • Drafting a resolution requesting SUSD take specific actions (for example, limit night time games further, dim the lights further which may increase liabilities, prohibit rentals in the future, etc.);
  • Encouraging residents to express concerns (or compliments) via SUSD’s “Let’s Talk” feature on the district’s website that tracks and responds to comments;
  • Inviting public comment at the 6 p.m., May 18 SUSD Governing Board meeting at Coronado High School;
  • Educating the public on the community benefits and mitigations of the field lights
  • Supporting SUSD and concerned citizens to continue working together “to balance being good neighbors and enhancing student activities.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Pace noted her initial reaction had waned and “was long gone after we got information.”

She said her stance was different since she was enlightened about the lights on the field. While she is not impacted by the lights where she lives, she stated her desire to take citizen concerns seriously.

“... I am impacted by residents who called and asked questions and raised concerns when they saw new super bright lights and thought it was going to be nightly,” Ms. Pace said. “So there was a quick reaction that settled down as lighting was turned off and people learned information.”

Calling it “good news,” she described bright lights that will be on less than 20 nights per year, and complimented the school district for considering and addressing concerns of residents; plus “the coaches have a cool app to turn the lights on and off and there was an amazing donor who gave $500,000 to help with youth baseball.”

She reiterated the importance of educating the neighbors about the details involving the lights as people had a somewhat changed reaction in the community and “I think everyone felt good and glad to know the info and this really evolved quickly into not being the same initial concern.”

She, like the mayor, noted the importance of directing resident complaints to the appropriate town personnel for any concerns about items even outside the municipality’s jurisdiction.

“It is good that our council talks about issues that our residents bring up and we got to a good result and then we all move forward to address the next issue for the town. Council members should be responsive to concerns raised by residents, which is what we did,” she said.

“As a town, we could have done better on proactive communication to residents as to what was going on with the bright lights. That would have helped allay concerns.”

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