By Genevieve Jinson, Community Reporter
Northborough – The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Sept. 4 unanimously rejected a request for a variance/special permit for New England Baseball, LLC to change the existing Indian Meadows Golf Course into a four-diamond baseball practice facility.
New England Baseball? had hoped to locate a college development program, the New England Ruffnecks, at the site. The hearing, held at the Northborough Free Library, was packed with residents opposing the plan, the majority of whom were from the abutting Indian Meadows neighborhood. When the ZBA rendered its decision, the audience erupted into cheers and applause.
Earlier this summer, the town had received notice from Indian Meadows that the owners had signed a purchase and sale agreement to sell the property for $1.9 million to the Ruffnecks. Most of the property, roughly 63 acres, is located in Northborough; the remainder, including the entrance and the restaurant Acacia, is in Westborough.
In its proposal, New England Baseball suggested that the existing nine-hole golf course be converted into four baseball practice fields. They proposed that one field, which would border the Westborough town line, be lit for nighttime use with six light posts, for a total of 61 total light fixtures. In the plan, the infield posts would be 70-feet high and the outfield posts be 50-feet high. This was a change from a previous presentation which had proposed that two of the four fields be lit, for a total of over 150 light fixtures on the light posts.
New England Baseball also had a study conducted by Sudbury-based acoustic consulting firm Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, Inc. ?on the effects of the anticipated noise levels on the Indian Meadow neighborhood. ?The results of the study described the maximum noise level during a game as being similar to the sound of someone cutting their grass, and with the maximum noise level lasting no more than five seconds. The maximum noise levels were based on a crowd of thirty people cheering which is the number New England Baseball said is the average attendance record of one of its games.
Atty. Mark Donahue, representing New England Baseball, commented on the projected? sound levels of the proposed baseball fields indicated in the study.
“The sound level is consistent with what is [already] out there in the neighborhood,” he said.
Resident Tom Racca, 121 Indian Meadow Drive, spoke on behalf of the Indian Meadows neighborhood.
“We are not experts in sound,” he said. “We tried to measure [the acoustics] of real baseball games to try to say that this [baseball practice field] is in the same sound level as golf is unbelievable.”
He disputed the data of the sound study, adding that it may not be “fully verified.”
Racca also argued that the glare from the fixtures would be more significant than the placement of the fixtures.
Another resident, Dave Henry, 134 Indian Meadow Drive, said he is a parent of a child who has been involved with traveling baseball teams and tournaments. He noted that families of the athletes become very involved in the program and that when a family has a child involved in a traveling league, the entire family often vacations together in order to watch the games. He added that the attendance rate that New England Baseball previously cited may be higher than what was presented in the proposal.
ZBA member Mark Rutan described the visual impact of the lit field on the neighborhood.
“I think it's significant; this neighborhood doesn's have lights,” he said. “It would substantially change the nighttime character of the neighborhood.”
Racca was delighted with the Board's decision to reject the request for the special permit.
“We know there are good places for [baseball fields] this just isn's one,” he said.