Williamsville East sportsplex neighbors irked by summer of construction - The Buffalo News

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Williamsville East sportsplex neighbors irked by summer of construction

The heavy trucks and machinery are gone now that work on Williamsville East High School's new sportsplex is complete.

What remains, neighbors say, are dirty windows, awnings and air ducts from all the earth-moving, as well as bad memories of a summer ruined by noise and cleanup.

"Dump trucks, backhoes and machinery slamming dirt to the ground from dawn to dinner six days a week doesn't make for many entertaining opportunities," said Daphne Finnegan of Brittania Drive, which borders the new athletic fields to the south.

The new home for the East Flames includes about 260,000 square feet of artificial turf for soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, baseball, softball and football. Permanent bleachers, three new scoreboards, field lighting, a new concession stand and restrooms have been installed. New tennis courts are also part of the new sports complex.

Neighbors say all those improvements came at a cost to their quality of life. Crews regularly violated the town's noise ordinance by starting machinery up before 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends, Finnegan said.

Russell Dye and Daphne Finnegan and some other Brittania Drive residents are upset with the dirt and noise caused by construction of the Williamsville East High School athletic complex near their homes in Amherst. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Then there are the cleanup bills.

Finnegan said she and her husband, Russell Dye, are spending $650 next month on duct cleaning, $170 for carpet shampooing and $400 to clean their awning. That's in addition to the $3,000 Finnegan said she spent on a white vinyl privacy fence she hoped might shield their backyard from the dirt and noise.

"There's all kinds of expenses that are invisible to other people who don't live here," she said.

She's also worried about the condition of the foundation of her home from constant pounding on the ground, which knocked frames on her walls askew.

"I didn't even fix them because I knew they'd be crooked the next day," she said. "I'm worried about what that kind of constant slamming into the earth does to our foundation."

Williamsville schools Superintendent Scott Martzloff said the neighbors' complaints about dirt and noise were news to him.

"It was an active construction site all summer and as an active construction site there is dust," he said. "Whether or not it did all those things, I have no idea."

District officials held at least six meetings with a committee of neighbor representatives since the project was approved by voters in May 2015, Martzloff said. A number of changes were made to accommodate neighbors' requests, he said, including moving the project's footprint 60 yards to the north, which required reconstructing tennis courts elsewhere. Scoreboards were re-positioned to face east-west, rather than north-south so they wouldn't face neighbors on Brittania Drive or Chasewood Lane.

A berm planted with evergreen trees was built between the fields and Brittania Drive backyards. Once the trees mature, they should block out much of the light and some noise from the fields, Martzloff said.

"We've tried to be really sensitive to their needs and be good neighbors," he said. "We've made a lot of changes that have a financial cost to the district in an effort to meet their needs."

The district agreed to install shorter light poles, and has an independent consultant visiting in October to make sure light is properly shielded from neighbors' backyards, Martzloff said.

"At the end of the day you have an athletic turf field next to your house with lights and those lights haven't been there before," he said.

Those lights illuminate Catherine LaBerta's dining room table, deck and pool at night, said the Britannia Drive resident.

"I just think there's a big lack of concern for the neighbors and I think our quality of life has been extremely compromised," she said.

And now that school teams have started playing games, LaBerta said the berm and trees haven't provided any additional privacy or noise reduction, as evidenced by last week's field hockey game.

"There was so much noise from the bleachers with people banging, that I was on the deck with a business phone call and I had to come in and close the door," she said.

In May 2015, district voters approved a $22.4 million project to install multi-use synthetic turf athletic complexes at each of Williamsville's three high schools. At the same time, in a separate proposition, voters approved a $4.5 million plan to add new concession stands and restrooms at each new athletic facility, as well as field lighting at North and East high schools.

The new athletic field complex at Williamsville North opened in September 2016. The field complexes at Williamsville South and East opened this month.

Martzloff said the district also agreed that when outside parties want to lease one of the complexes for a tournament or other event, it will suggest the complexes at North and South high schools first so fewer events are held at East.

"We will do our best to make sure we continue to be good neighbors," he said.

Finnegan wants the district to pay for her cleanup costs.

"If they're good neighbors, why don't they come over and pay for some of this stuff?" she asked.

But Martzloff said the district has no intention of doing so.

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