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St. Joseph's High School v. Trumbull Planning & Zoning Commission

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield, Bridgeport

October 28, 2015

St. Joseph's High School et al.
Trumbull Planning & Zoning Commission

Filed Date October 29, 2015


Dale W. Radcliffe, J.


The Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation, is the record owner of property known as 2320 Huntington Turnpike, in the Town of Trumbull. The parcel has been the site of St. Joseph's High School, a private secondary school operated by the Plaintiff, St. Joseph's High School, Inc., since the early 1960s.

2320 Huntington Turnpike consists of approximately forty (40) acres, and is located in a AA Residential Zone. Approximately twenty-seven (27) acres are used as a secondary school, athletic fields, parking and related school activities.

In August of 2014, the Plaintiff, St. Joseph's High School, Inc., submitted an application for a special permit (ROR 1) to the Trumbull Planning and Zoning Commission. The application sought a special permit, " to permit the installation of four (4) 70-ft. light poles to illuminate the athletic field at St. Joseph's High School."

The request was submitted, pursuant to a regulation adopted by the Planning and Zoning Commission in August of 2014. The regulation's effective date was September 10, 2014, one week prior to the public hearing on the requested special permit. The public hearing was noticed (ROR 3) for September 17, 2014.

The applicable regulation, Article II, Sec. of the Trumbull Zoning Regulations, reads, in relevant part:

. . . Permanent and temporary light poles for lighted athletic fields on non-profit secondary school property shall be permitted for school related purposes only, provided:
a) the poles, lights and structures supporting such poles do not exceed a combined height of eighty (80) feet.
b) No light structure shall be within two hundred (200) feet of an abutting residential property.
c) Applicant shall submit a photometric plan at the time of application.
d) Lights must be shut off no later than 11 p.m. and applicant shall install an automated control system to ensure compliance.
e) All requirements of Article XV Special Permit/Special Exception shall be satisfied.

Counsel for the applicant explained the lighting proposal, and reviewed with the Commission the requirements of the regulation, at the outset of the hearing. In addition to complying with all of the regulations, the attorney stated that the applicant would agree to several conditions of approval, which he suggested. (ROR 31, TR 9-7-14, p. 8-9.)

The proposal received vocal support from school officials, and supporters of the St. Joseph's athletic program. Opposition was voiced by neighbors and abutting property owners. The opponents focused upon noise which would be generated by night football games, and the impact of the lights and music on the quiet enjoyment of their property.

It was also claimed that parking and public safety issues were intensified by the advent of night football, even if the same number of games were played. Security and safety issues, not present during afternoon football games, would be aggravated, they claimed, by the parking of vehicles on side streets at night.

Following the close of the public hearing (ROR 31, TR 9-17-14, p. 47), the Commission deliberated, concerning the special permit application.

A review of both the transcript of the public hearing (ROR 31), and the minutes of the Planning and Zoning Commission's deliberations (ROR 4) which followed the public participation portion of the meeting, reveals that a motion was made to approve the special permit application, subject to specific conditions (ROR 4, p. 5; ROR 31, TR, 9-17-14, p. 48).

Once the motion was made by Commissioner Garrity, and seconded by Commissioner Silber, discussion ensued. Ten (10) conditions were moved as part of the approval motion:

1. Only activities related to Saint Joseph's High School to take place on lighted field.
2. Athletic field shall not be rented by outside or third party vendors.
3. Automatic shut-off of field lights to be as follows: 10:00 p.m. on week nights, 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays, 9 p.m. for practice sessions and no lighted fields on Sunday.
4. Field lights shall be permitted from March 15th thru June 15th and August 15th thru December 15th.
5. The lights shall be powered 100% for games at an average of 60 candle lights at the field and an average of 50% for practice sessions.
6. Only four light poles are permitted and subject poles are to be located only on the field.
7. Light shields are to be installed.
8. A maximum of three nighttime games per week shall be permitted.
9. No music to be permitted at night games.
10. With the exception of varsity football and lacrosse, public address booth shall not be utilized during nighttime games.

A second amendment was carried, concerning lighting, followed by a motion designed to limit the number of varsity football games which could be played at ...

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