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Details in question for Hingham fields

Posted by Lisa Crowley  December 17, 2009 01:03 PM

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By L.E. Crowley, Town correspondent

Selectman Bruce Rabuffo has a few "absolutes" when it comes to building two artificial turf fields with 80-foot-tall lights on Ward Street.

"There will absolutely be no bubble," Rabuffo said, referring to a dome that was originally proposed for the project.

Rabuffo, who has been a leader on issues related to recreational facilities, also insisted on an independent consultant's review of the effects of the 80-foot lights. He also wants the group advancing the project to pay for the review, because the town can't afford to do it.

These and other ideas will be on the table Tuesday night, when the Board of Selectmen begins work on conditions that will be attached to an application for constructing the Ward Street fields.

Rabuffo has submitted a list of 11 "absolutes" that he believes must be included as a part of the application the board will file on behalf of the town and representatives of the Ward Street Fields Trust, a private, non-profit group that has proposed building the fields and paying for their construction.

He also has a list of 10 suggestions, such as hours of operation, that will be discussed with fellow board members Laura Burns and John Riley.

Last Monday night, members of the trust offered a plan that would eliminate the dome and significantly scale back the project -- changes that made the project more palatable to many residents, although the question of the 80-foot lights will have to be decided by Town Meeting.

Selectmen on Monday gave the go-ahead for the trust to use the town-owned parcel for the fields, with the understanding there would be no dome. But Rabuffo wants to make sure it's in writing so there is no chance of any changes as the project seeks permits from the Zoning and Planning Boards, Conservation Commission, and Board of Health.

"I really don't think there will be any such issues, but it is always better to have it on paper," Rabuffo said.

Resident Ron Schram, a member of a group opposed to the project, said the downsized plan is much more reasonable than the original plan, which included a dome, the lights, stadium seating, and spillover parking.

"The original plan wasn't just for fields, it was a large complex that would have brought a lot of traffic to this rural, quiet neighborhood," Schram said.

Schram praised the trust members for acknowledging the original plan had to be reduced, but he and his group are irked that they were not included in a meeting last week, when the plans were downsized.

While the plans are less grandiose, he said, many residents still have major concerns about the lights and their impact.

"It's not about the fields, it's about the lights," Schram said, adding that two earlier proposals for lights at the high school and Conservatory Park were soundly defeated.

He said he is glad selectmen are adding conditions to the permits, but he and his group will attend meetings through the process to make sure their concerns are heard.

"We'll be there," Schram said.

Hingham resident Donald J. MacKinnon, one of the trust's leaders, said the group is ready to work with selectmen and neighbors as the project winds its way through the permitting process.

The trust will work with the Planning Board to develop a new zoning bylaw that would allow the 80-foot lights and probably create regulations governing sports and recreation facilities, he said. Currently the town restricts buildings and other structures to 35 feet in height. A new bylaw would need a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting.

"We don't see anyone as opponents," MacKinnon said. "We are all Hingham residents, and people have concerns."

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