Approximately two dozen residents from the neighborhoods surrounding Tewksbury High School turned out at Town Hall Thursday night to voice concerns over the proposed enhancements to the athletic facilities slated to be built as part of the new Tewksbury High School construction project.
The current construction plans call for a natural grass athletic field with no lights and seating for 500 spectators to be built. But the recently created Friends of Tewksbury Community Athletics Complex (FTCAC) has sought approval from the board of selectmen and the school committee to raise private funds which would be used to enhance the proposed athletic complex.
FTCAC's plan calls for a lighted, artificial turf field to be installed, with stadium seating for 1500 spectators, and includes a press box and a scoreboard. The new plan also includes the construction of five tennis courts on the high school campus.
The project would cost an estimated $2.2 million and would be funded entirely by grants and corporate or private donations.
FTCAC's public presentation of its plan was attended primarily by town officials, FTCAC committee members and neighborhood residents opposed to the enhanced athletic complex.
Several residents voiced concerns that the lighted fields would be in use late into the evening, and that the field lights and sound system would be a neighborhood intrusion.
"You're going to be welcoming more events with increased noise and increased traffic," said Carlos Amaral, a resident of Ferncroft Road. "How are you addressing the concerns of the abuttters? I think what you're proposing to do would be more appropriate at Livingston Street (park) where there are fewer neighbors. It's definitely the wrong place to do this."
Scott Boyages, a resident of Henry J Drive, complained that construction crews working on the current high school building project have already cut down hundreds of trees that used to serve as a buffer zone between his neighborhood and the high school.
"Why did they cut down all those trees, and what's this going to do to our property values? That's my concern," Boyages said.
Michael Giuggio, also a Henry J drive resident, asked the FTCAC committee to consider writing guidelines into its charter that would limit the hours during which the field lights and sound system could be used. Giuggio was among several residents who voiced concerns over intrusive noise levels from the complex's public address system.
"Whether it's a sound proof wall or more trees, they have to do something," Giuggio said. "Something like they build along the highway for highway traffic."
School committee member Brian Dick, who serves as FTCAC's chairperson, assured the abutters that "the town and the school committee will be working together to come up with ground rules" for the athletic complex that will address the residents' concerns.
FTCAC treasurer and spokesman Paul Hibner also promised residents that the committee would work to establish reasonable time limits for the lighted field's usage, and that FTCAC would work with its project architects to reduce noise levels and intrusion from field lighting.
"The technology of focusing light has grown immensely over the last couple years," Hibner said. "They are able to focus the lighting directly on the field now."
FTCAC's proposal calls for the entire $2.2 million cost of the project to be underwritten without the use of any funding from the Town of Tewksbury. The group is presently applying for grants and seeking corporate and individual donations to raise the money, but has raised "only a few thousand dollars" to date, according to Hibner.
Last month, the Tewksbury School Committee granted FTCAC permission to sell naming rights to the stadium, and generate revenue by selling advertising signs at various locations throughout the project.
Town Manager Richard Montuori, who was present at the meeting, assured residents that FTCAC's proposal would be presented to the town's planning board in the coming months, where it would be reviewed for compliance with town zoning and use regulations.
The project's timeline calls for funding to be in place by late fall of this calendar year, and for the project to go out to bid by December of 2011.
Construction would begin in the fall of 2012, with the complex opening for use in September of 2013.