Above: Views to the west (top) and east taken by a drone-mounted camera from above Albrecht Oval at the height of the proposed light towers. Resident Stan Davies said the photos demonstrate the number of residences that will be impacted by the lights.
By KIERAN FINNANE
Last updated 13 June 2019, 2.26pm. See CORRECTION in the text.
Town Councillors unanimously support going ahead with the light tower project for Albrecht Oval in face of ongoing vocal opposition from some local residents.
Some councillors – Eli Melky, Glen Auricht – reported receiving a high volume of angry, sometimes abusive emails and phone calls, and council papers for last night included an email complaining about the conduct of the most recent meeting with local residents, attended by several councillors.
The author said he had felt unable to make the points he wanted to “due to the relentless yelling from 30-60 something year old grown men, including the facilitator”.
This person has agreed to meet with CEO Rex Mooney to discuss the matter further.
Cr Melky, defending the “performance of the chair”, intervened at the community meeting and commented further last night that he had done “an excellent job”. (The chair was Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson who last night was on annual leave.)
Local resident Stan Davies, who came to last night’s meeting to make his case against the installation, could not have been more polite.
He began by thanking council for its consideration and patience on this issue. He was speaking to an emailed submission, full of facts he had researched and images, in response to council’s updated draft Environmental Management Plan (EMP).
He provided two photographs taken by drone at the height of the proposed towers (above), which he said would be useful for assessing the number of residential properties exposed to direct glare, not just to light spill.
He said it would be difficult to assess this without such photos.
He was concerned about the angle of the lights, contending that not all would be focussed downwards; some would be tilted near to horizontal or even above, to provide good ball sighting under all conditions, necessary especially for Class 1 level games.
This concern is particularly relevant for the Albrecht Oval proposal, because of the number of houses on high ground in the area.
Another photo (at right) in his submission showed an example of actual light glare (image from Precision Sports & Lighting + Electrical website).
This was countered by Bruce Walker, president of the Alice Springs Cricket association and strong supporter of the lighting project.
It’s all a matter of lighting design, he said. Mr Davies’ photo did not show an LED array, but rather metal halo lights.
His contrasting example of a 500 Lux installation at Charles Darwin University’s Palmerston Campus (at left) shows the lights all pointing downwards and the surrounding area in comparative darkness.
Council’s proposal is, however, for 750 Lux.
It is the Lux-level that appears to be of particular concern to local residents, with many willing to accept a lower Lux-level.
According to Deputy Mayor Paterson, speaking at the recent community meeting, the lights will be set to 750 only for professional matches; for club competition the lights will be fixed at 500.
At last night’s council meeting, Mr Davies also challenged the EMP on its claims about noise abatement: in his judgment they are “quite unsustainable”.
He contended that trees and shrubs might attenuate noise by only one tenth of the EMP’s claim. To achieve the level suggested in the EMP the oval would have to be in a forest!
Mr Walker countered with reference to the largest event ever held at the oval, the Womens’ Big Bash League last January. Did council receive any noise complaints on that occasion? No.
On Lux levels, he suggested people looking for local reference points take a trip to Traeger Park.
According to a previous comparison provided by council, the Lux level at Traeger is 900; the towers there reach 52m in height, compared to 34.5m at Albrecht.
The Traeger lights are not LEDs as are proposed for Albrecht, said Mr Walker.
Council’s plan is to have the lights on for a maximum of four nights a week, to 10pm.
To a question from Cr Jimmy Cocking about the possibility of games going later than 10pm, Mr Walker said that would only ever be by 15 minutes or so.
Mayor Damien Ryan asked CEO Rex Mooney if time limits set for other venues are ever broken.
Mr Mooney said no, they are “strictly adhered to”.
Mr Walker commended council for introducing an ongoing management committee, with local resident representation, to take the matter forward.
It remains to be seen to what extent that will placate the project’s more vociferous opponents. As one of them, Fiona Pettit, put it last night, they feel “crapped upon” by council.
She said there were “lots of very angry people out there”; council hadn’t had a consultation process, but rather an information process, which was “disgraceful considering how many people would be effected.”
Residents feel the “hammer has landed” and they haven’t had a voice, she said.
Above: Cr Jacinta Price attended last night’s meeting. From left also Mayor Damien Ryan (obscured), Cr Glen Auricht (obscured) and Cr Jamie de Brenni.
Before a show of hands was asked for, councillors one by one, to varying degrees and following Cr Melky’s lead, put on the record the reasons why they supported going ahead. All bar Cr Jacinta Price (Cr Marli Banks was on personal leave last night). Cr Price was present at last night’s meeting but she did not speak on the subject. (CORRECTION: We previously reported that Cr Price had attended the community meeting, as per council’s own records. These have been corrected to show that Cr Price was an apology, along with Mayor Ryan and Cr de Brenni. Previously Cr Satour was shown as an apology on council’s records, but she in fact attended the meeting and corrected the record herself during Tuesday’s council meeting.)
Cr Melky said he did not want to hide his position behind a group vote.
He spoke of residents’ concerns about antisocial behaviour for which he could not find substantiation.
He thought the risk of a negative impact on property values was very low. On the contrary, being near to shops, schools, and sporting facilities, is sought after by many.
Cr Catherine Satour also spoke about this, and the positive impact in neighbourhoods of people using their facilities to come together. (She lives close to Flynn Drive Oval.)
Cr Melky said his decision was being made on the basis of benefit to the whole community, including for its future growth, which in his view is dependent on “having the right facilities in our town”.
If council’s decision “attracts more ire”, elected members should “take a deep breath”, he said. They are not there to take abuse, but to support the community as a whole.
To this Mayor Ryan said, “Hear, hear.”
Cr Glen Auricht fully supported Cr Melky’s comments, adding that real estate next to Traeger Park had doubled in value (he did not say over what period), “real evidence” that Traeger’s lighting towers had not impacted property values.
Activity at sporting venues is about people making their community “vibrant and real”; it encourages a healthy lifestyle; and national games provide great exposure for the town, said Cr Auricht.
Cr Cocking wanted council to avoid falling into the trap of having “winners and losers” out of this process. They should find ways to support the level of engagement local residents have had on the issue, including support to the community members who come on to the reference group.
Both he and Cr Satour referred to residents’ concerns that the oval will be locked up, as Traeger is, which would be a real loss to the community. It should remain public open space.
Mayor Ryan sought clarification on this point.
Director Scott Allen said sports clubs booking the oval will have priority use but people will still be able to access its outer area, to exercise dogs, for instance.
Cr Jamie de Brenni agreed with “every statement” by his fellow elected members, seeing the development as a “massive opportunity” for that area, with the potential to support events like Parrtjima.
Council’s show of hands, all in favour, at last night’s meeting is not a formal vote; that will take place at the end of month meeting on 24 June.