Lights at Villanova stadium spark complaints
RADNOR >> The Radnor Township manager, community development official and solicitor promised to craft a new ordinance to deal with light pollution for the Board of Commissioners to consider.
This came at the Oct. 8 meeting, after Ward 7 Commissioner Sean Farhy and several residents complained about light glaring into homes from the Villanova stadium.
Farhy said that many residents of the Old Oaks section of the township have complained to him about the stadium lights.
“They feel the lights are too bright, stay on too late and come on too early,” said Farhy.
Farhy pointed to a 2012 email from Chris Kovolski, Villanova assistant vice president for government relations and external affairs, apologizing to township officials for the light complaints then and saying, “I am aware of what I have said in the past yet our actions have continually failed to demonstrate that commitment. I am embarrassed and furious that the situation has deteriorated to this point. It is unacceptable and you and the neighbors have every right to be upset.”
In that email, Kovolski said the lights will be on a timer and will shut off at 9:15 p.m., except in the case of “varsity athletic games” that have late starting times. That email also said that the lights will not go on before 7 a.m.
“Everything he said is not the case,” said Farhy. “And the neighbors are sick of it. I am sick of it … None of this rings true. And if it does, it’s temporary and will be changed.” He called on his fellow commissioners to “help Radnor be a serene suburb instead of a downtown situation.”
Kevin Kochanski, Radnor community development officer, said, “Up until September, they have been committed to (turning the lights out at) 9:15 p.m. In the middle of September they decided to change back to the 10:30 time.” Kochanski said the university had changed its policy on the lights in 2017 but didn’t implement the change until this September.
“Do we not have an ordinance with lighting?” asked board President Lisa Borowski.
Kochanski said the ordinance says that lights “shall not create glare.”
Annmarie Hessman, a resident, said that two out of her three bedrooms are subject to glare from Villlanova stadium lighting. She has shades that she keeps down but that also means that in the morning, she can’t leave the shades up so daylight can “help me wake up.” She has suggested “multiple times” that the university install dimmer lights for practices than those that are needed to televise games.
“I’m not sure why you need these bright lights all the time,” she said, asking the commissioners to change the ordinance.
Martin Caulfield, another resident, said he doesn’t “have a beef against Villanova” but “light pollution is light pollution.”
Caulfield noted there is new technology for stadium lighting available today with LED lights that use less energy and do not glare brightly off the field. Neshaminy High School and Notre Dame University have those lights, he said.
“It’s state of the art that is mitigating, if not eliminating, light spill to your neighbors,” Caulfield said. There are neighborhoods on three sides of the stadium that are impacted by the lights, he said. Caulfield also called for a new township ordinance that could grandfather the university in for a few years to allow it time to get a new lighting system.
“Get them to wake up,” Caufield said. “It’s been 30 years since they put those lights up. They’re not doing anything but living in the past.” As for the cost, university officials “had the same argument about the pedestrian bridge,” he said.
Jane Galli, who also lives nearby, said, “I will tell you if you come in our neighborhood … In the winter, you don’t have to use a flashlight to walk down the streets. We have beacons in the night. Those lights are shining in our neighborhood.” Previously, Villanova had only kept the lights on until 10:30 p.m. if “they had something special going on.”
“When you live next to Villanova you have very little say,” said Galli. “... They can do damn well what they want.” Ward 7 pays the fourth most in taxes “but we don’t get the other services. We have a lot of people, a lot of homes, a lot of voters.” And while there are dark sky lighting rules written into the zoning change that allowed Villanova to build new dormitories, the stadium is not in that zone, she said.
Roberta Winters, president of the Radnor League of Women Voters, offered to hold a forum to discuss changes to the township’s lighting ordinances. She said that sleep deprivation is a serious health issue.
Robert Zienkowski, the township manager, mentioned preventing light from spilling outside a property borders is a standard for an ordinance.
“There have been a lot of commitments that have been made but problems that are ongoing,” said Zienkowski. “They had changed the light standard they could remotely turn them off…As part of this the board could authorize us to speak to Villanova.”
Zienkowski told the commissioners that officials will work on an ordinance and present at the October 22 commissioners meeting.
“If you’re going to act, act. Be proactive,” said Sara Pilling, another resident.
When asked later to comment, Kovolski said, “Villanova is committed to open dialogue with its neighbors and surrounding community. We understand that some residents have raised concerns recently regarding the stadium lights and the university has made multiple efforts to discuss the issue with Commissioner Farhy prior to Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting. We will continue to work closely with township staff on this and other matters.”
The Villanova University stadium.