Neighbors take issue with North Smithfield Relay for Sports

Neighbors take issue with North Smithfield Relay for Sports

NSAA president says fundraising overnight event will change for next year

NORTH SMITHFIELD - An annual all-night sporting event held at the North Smithfield athletic fields is likely to see some major changes next year, after neighboring homeowners approached the Town Council with complaints about noise and lighting.

The North Smithfield Athletic Association held Relay for Sports on Oct. 5, an overnight camp-out for high school and middle school students including games, music and food that is used to raise funds for the schools' sports programs. NSAA must obtain a permit from the Town Council to hold the fundraiser, and abutters of the school property said that next time around, councilors should think more about those who live there.

"No one gets any sleep in our neighborhood that night, but yet these special permits keep getting issued," said resident Aimee Lombardo at a meeting last month. "The sporting event, although commendable, and a novel idea for the children, seems to be a bit disruptive for our neighborhood."

According to Lombardo, the 25 homes that abut the school are subject to stadium-style music, announcements, games activities and lights throughout the evening.

"I'd like you guys to possibly consider the rights of the homes that abut the property," she said.

Bill Nangle, president of NSAA, said that around 100 students attended the event this year, the second of its kind that the organization has sponsored.

Nangle said there were between 15 and 20 chaperones at all times at this year's relay, during which students walked the track all night to promote physical activity, and that music was turned off at 11:30.

"I think the event went exactly as we would have hoped this year," he said.

Abutter Sue Landy disagreed.

"It's not Fenway Park - it's just a ball field," she said. "The last couple of years it has been tremendously too loud. The neighborhood has a lot of senior citizens in it."

Lombardo suggested that the event could take place indoors or be moved to a non-residential neighborhood. She said that students were also seen outside the gates of the facility during the evening.

"It does not appear that the people that are organizing the event are interested in changing it," she added.

Councilor Thomas McGee said it was the first time anyone had raised concerns about the fundraiser.

"We've never heard any complaints before," McGee said. "Everyone says it goes fine, no problems"

Students paid $25 to attend the relay, which was held from 6 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday and included dinner. Attendees were asked to dress warm and to bring their own pop tents for shelter, and additional concessions were sold as part of the fundraiser. Nangle said Relay for Sports raised around $2,500 for athletics this year.

"It's one of our better fundraisers," he said. "I believe in the event. I believe that it's healthy and that kids need to be outdoors more often."

Nangle disputed the notion that students had wandered outside the facility's gates, saying they were closed and a guard was posted by them throughout the evening.

"Not on my watch," he said.

The athletic association president said he would be happy to sit down and talk to the neighbors, and councilors asked him to do just that, meeting to see if the two groups could work out solutions on their own.

"I believe this is a great event for our kids," said Councilor Paul Zwolenski.

On Monday, Nangle said he had spoken to several of the neighbors and that the biggest concern was that they turn the music off earlier. He added that he plans to make several changes to the relay next year.

"We have a lot of ideas and some of them may involve changing the program a small amount, some may involve changing it a large amount," he said.

Possible plans include shutting the music off at 9 or 9:30, holding separate events for the middle school and high school students, and hosting the event partially indoors.

"We're open to discussion and trying to make this as agreeable as possible," he said.

Nangle said he will be back before the council once plans are more firm, and council members thanked him.

"My sense is that you're trying to sort out the challenges and come up with a plan for next year that accomplishes a goal of raising money for the sports program in a way that's acceptable to the neighbors," said Council President John Flaherty.

NSAA holds monthly board meetings at Kendall Dean School, which are open to the public.