Battle over Northern Highlands Regional district’s field lights heading to court
NOVEMBER 15, 2015 LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2015, 9:59 AM
BY MARINA VILLENEUVE
STAFF WRITER |
ALLENDALE — The Northern Highlands Regional High School Board of Education is going to court to defend the new electric-powered light trailers on its athletic fields.
Three neighboring residents are suing the school district, claiming it’s unlawfully using the mobile trailers with lights up to 72 feet tall in defiance of state and local statutes and past court rulings.
On Thursday, the school board, the Northern Highlands Regional High School Sports Association and the Allendale Planning Board and Board of Adjustment filed a civil action in Superior Court in Hackensack asking a judge to dismiss the neighbors’ lawsuit and declare that the school’s use of the lights is legal.
The school has been using mobile, diesel-powered light trailers ever since the late 1990s, after the Planning Board denied the sports association’s application to build permanent 70-foot-tall light towers with a concrete foundation.
The board is arguing that mobile light trailers don’t require any kind of zoning variance or site-plan approval because they don’t fall under state and local definitions of “structure,” “fixture” or “development.”
The school says that it’s used the new electric-powered light trailers about 30 times since they were delivered in September, and that they’re less noisy and smelly than the previously rented diesel-powered trailers.
“As a result, hundreds of children have been able to safely use the turf field at Northern Highlands after dark,” reads the counterclaim filed Thursday.
The school “shall continue to utilize mobile light trailers in connection with its lawful lighting of the athletic fields on the property,” reads the counterclaim, which seeks compensatory, consequential and punitive damages.
In two counts of the neighbors’ eight-count lawsuit filed in October, they claim the new lights will be a public nuisance harming neighbors and that the Board of Education will be liable for damages.
“The development will give rise to a continual invasion of adjoining property by reason of light trespass and light and noise pollution,” reads the lawsuit, which also claims the taller lights will lead to lowered property values and a worse quality of life.