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Owner/Applicant:       Town of Hingham Public Schools

                                    Hingham High School Athletic Department


Premises:                     17 Union Street (Formerly 41 Pleasant Street)

Hingham, Massachusetts 02043




This matter came before the Zoning Board of Appeals on the application of Hingham High School Athletic Department (the “Applicant”) for modification to the existing Variance dated March 9, 1987, as amended through January 30, 2008, to erect temporary portable lighting, no higher than 35', for a night football game to be held on November 11, 2011 at 17 Union Street (the “Property”), in the Official and Open Space District.


A public hearing was duly noticed and held on October 12, 2011 at the Hingham Town Hall before a panel consisting of regular members W. Tod McGrath, Chairman, Joseph M. Fisher, and Joseph W. Freeman.  The Applicant was represented by Athletic Director Margaret Conaty.  Several neighbors and abutters were in attendance at the hearing, and participated.  Specifically, comments were solicited and discussed concerning the past uses of the Field, as well as the potential impact that may result from the proposed modification.   



On March 9, 1987 the Zoning Board of Appeals granted a Variance to the Hingham Public Schools to permit the construction and placement of athletic field bleacher seating at the football field, such that the bleacher seating would be located within the setback area immediately adjacent to the residences on Downing Street.  The Variance was granted subject to several conditions and has been the subject of subsequent zoning hearings and relief.


In 2005 the Building Commissioner granted the High School permission for temporary lights for two nights of games (soccer and football) at the High School to be held in October 2005.  In November 2005 abutters, through their counsel, requested the Building Commissioner enforce the 1987 permit conditions.  In April 2006 Downing Street abutters appealed the lack of enforcement action by the Building Commissioner regarding the 1987 ZBA decision.


In the decision dated June 7, 2006 the Board of Appeals states “…the use of temporary lights for night games is not contemplated or addressed in the 1987 Variance, and the use of the fields, with lights, for night games may well exceed the scope of use permitted by the 1987 Variance.  However, since the use of the lights was only on a temporary basis, and does not constitute a continuing and on-going violation, the Board of Appeals finds that there is no current need for enforcement action relative to the use of lights.  However, the Public Schools were cautioned that the use of lights tends to be inconsistent with the scope and spirit of the 1987 Variance as well as contrary to the Town’s previous expressions, at Town Meeting, in opposition to the installation of lights at the athletic fields.”


In September 2006 a request was submitted to the Building Commissioner by the Hingham High School Football Booster Club for temporary lights to be used again in October as had previously been approved in 2005.  The Building Commissioner declined to grant the request and states in response letter dated September 8, 2006 “This past year the neighbors brought the high school bleachers case dated March 9, 1987 to the Zoning Board of Appeals.  The lighting was discussed and the message I received was if lights were to be used relief from the Zoning Board of Appeals would be needed.”  Therefore based on the information available to the Building Commissioner and Zoning Administrator the Athletic Department was instructed to file for a modification to the 1987 permit.



At the public hearing the Applicant, Board and abutters discussed numerous issues including hours and height of lighting, public safety including parking and traffic, loudspeakers, fence bordering the bleachers and Downing Street residences, trash, future requests for temporary lighting and past Town Meeting votes on permanent lighting for field. 


The Applicant and Downing Street abutters stated they have been in communication and concerns and possible solutions/mitigation are possible to run a successful community event.  In particular the Downing Street abutters had concerns with the condition of the fence as it abuts their property and in some instances there have been issues with game attendees entering private property in order to gain entrance to the field.  The Applicant represented they would be willing to address the fencing issue particularly as it relates to a condition in the 1987 Variance.


The Applicant also represented that the Chief of Police had been contacted and was willing to work with the Applicant and abutters to mitigate the concerns especially as they relate to parking and traffic. 


An abutter on Downing Street also represented that their willingness to work with the Applicant on this particular event in no way waived their rights or set a precedent on any future nighttime events/games.



At the conclusion of the public hearing the Board of Appeals found that owing to circumstances relating to the soil conditions, shape or topography which especially affect the premises, but do not affect generally the zoning district in which the premises are located, a literal enforcement of the Zoning By-Law would create a hardship to the Applicants.


The Board found that due to the placement of the existing field conforming to the setback requirement would result in a safety issue and hardship to the Applicant in the placement of four (4) of the proposed eight (8) temporary lights.  The Board further found that this one time use could be granted without substantial detriment to the public good and without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purpose of such ordinance or by-law.


The Applicant was reminded that there are conditions associated with the previously issued permits, particularly the 1987 Variance, that need to continually be adhered to.


Therefore the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to GRANT the request for a modification to the existing VARIANCE to erect temporary portable lighting, no higher than 35', for a night football game to be held on November 11, 2011 subject to the following conditions:


  1. The relief granted is for one time/one night only, November 11, 2011.   
  2. Game time start at 6:00pm.
  3. Temporary lights to be turned off one hour after the end of the ballgame. 
  4. The Applicant work with the Town of Hingham Police Department to ensure adequate public safety staffing to handle parking and traffic in the surrounding area, including Town owned land and abutting area.  Included in this would be addressing the concerns expressed for the area of the so called “far” parking lot on Union Street closest to the soccer/lacrosse fields.
  5. The Applicant use best public health practices to address concerns expressed related to Triple EEE virus.
  6. The Applicant continues to observe condition #4 of the 1987 permit as it relates to loudspeakers.
  7. The Applicant to meet with abutters within 30 days of the night game and submit a memo to the Board of Appeals on outcome of meeting.



This decision shall not take effect until a copy of the decision bearing the certification of the Town Clerk, that twenty (20) days have elapsed since the decision has been filed in the office of the Town Clerk and no appeal has been filed, or that if such appeal has been filed, that it has been dismissed or denied, is recorded with the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds and/or the Plymouth County Land Court Registry, and indexed in the grantor index under the name of the record owner or is recorded and noted on the owner’s certificate of title.


                                                                      For the Board of Appeals




                                                                     Joseph M. Fisher 

                                                                    October 17, 2010