NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Despite further concessions from New England Baseball, LLC, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously on Tuesday night to reject their application to purchase the Indian Meadows Golf Course on 275 Turnpike Road for $1.9 million and build a youth baseball facility in its place.
Board members agreed with neighbors' complaints that the planned facility of four baseball diamonds would change the character of the neighborhood and present a significant detriment to quality of life.
"Baseball is very different than golf, on every level to me other than the ball and the stick," ZBA member Fran Bakstran said.
Mark Donahue, attorney for New England Baseball, said at the beginning of the meeting that the ZBA was charged with determining whether the detriment to the neighborhood was substantial. For that to be so, he said, it must be "regularly occurring [...] so that it is something that is already in front of you."
Representatives from New England Baseball presented a new plan in which only one diamond—the one farthest from neighboring residences—would be lit. According to Patrick McGuire, president of Activitas, the company that designed the facility, those lights would stand atop 80-foot poles located at least 1,000 feet away from the nearest residence.
In addition, Brion Koning of Cavanaugh Tocci Associates explained that a new sound study of the area—in addition to the one he presented at the last Planning Board and ZBA meetings—had found that noise from the facility would fit into the existing range of sounds.
"Big sounds aren’t going to be introduced to the environment," he said. "Simply different sounds."
Though his chart showed that maximum sound levels could reach as high as 54 decibels—while average background noise ranged between 40–50 decibels—Koning said that these are short bursts of sound that occur during big plays. "These acoustic events might have a five-second duration," he added.
Abutters of the property disagreed. "To try to say that this is in the same sound levels as golf is, in our mind, unbelievable," said Tom Racca, one of the abutters.
Using data provided by New England Baseball, Racca calculated that daily attendance at the facility would reach a total of 2,000 and perhaps even 3,000 people when players, coaches and spectators at all the games were added together. He compared that number to his estimate of 184 golfers playing at Indian Meadows over the course of a day. "You can see a significant use," he said.
In his closing argument, Racca painted a picture of the Indian Meadows Drive as it currently stands, where there are no street lights, and where, he said, parents can take their families on late-night walks along quiet streets. He claimed that light and sound from the facility would ruin that atmosphere.
"We are the ones that are going to have to live with the decision," Racca said. "This isn't about foot candles and decibels, this is about our way of life."
Following the decision, Andrew Collins, a representative from New England Baseball, said that they were disappointed with the ZBA’s decision and would be evaluating their options.