FRANCESTOWN — The Zoning Board of Adjustment granted Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride a variance from the town’s lighting ordinance Tuesday on the condition the lights are fitted with visors to direct the lights to the slopes and away from the night sky.
The 38 lights were installed in an expansion of the ski area in 2012 and caused a clash between winter sport enthusiasts and those who said the lights polluted the night sky.
“It really boils down to our Francestown ordinance that does require shielding of lights and do they pass muster for the criteria for a variance,” said Charlie Pyle, vice-chairman of the zoning board. “We heard a lot of testimony from people that support the mountain cause they ski and they love to ski,” as well as from people advocating to keep the night skies dark.
The Zoning Board had met monthly on the issue since this summer.
“It’s one of those cases that is very emotional for everyone, and we wanted to allow everybody a chance to come and testify either in person or through writing a letter,” Pyle said.
During the hearing, Crotched Mountain representatives argued visors would hamper the lighting and create a need for more lights on the slopes.
“They really didn’t want to put the visors on, but we thought it was important,” Pyle said.
Friday Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride general manager Patrick Terry was readying the ski area for its opening weekend.
“I am glad that we did get the variance, and it’s behind us as far as the town. I think it’s good for both parties,” Terry said. “We are a bit concerned about the visors. We’re going to potentially have to add some lights. That’s what we were worried about.”
Terry said he plans to meet with the ski area’s lighting engineer and lighting consultants this week to come up with a plan as to how best to comply with the variance condition.
Because there is a 30-day period in which the decision could be appealed, town zoning and code officials don’t plan to follow up with Crotched Mountain on the issue for about a month, Pyle said.