A proposal to install lights at a Glenbard West practice field got its first public hearing before the Glen Ellyn plan commission Thursday.
And if the number of residents who attended is any indication, a final decision on the controversial proposal won't come immediately.
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Those both for and against lights at Memorial Field on Crescent Blvd. filled the board room and an overflow room at village hall, during which representatives from Glenbard High School District 87 presented their plans to the 11-member panel.
Members of Our Field, Our Town, a grass-roots group of citizens opposed to the lights, were prepared to have their own experts address issues of land use, zoning, architecture and lighting. But because of the meeting's three-hour length, they'll get that chance at the next scheduled meeting Sept. 8.
The proposal calls for installation of four 70-foot and two 60-foot poles. District officials said the lighting would allow for greater use of the field for sports and extracurricular activities. Those opposed have argued the lights would alter the character of the neighborhood, increase traffic, and create safety problems.
The district is requesting a variance for the poles' height, since zoning codes permit only a 30-foot-high pole in that area.
Another variance would allow an increase in flood candle levels -- a measure of the amount of light in one square foot -- at the field's property lines. The district is requesting 7.32 flood candles on the northern side of the property, and 8.49 on the south. Zoning code allows for 3 flood candles.
A third variance related to the lights would allow light poles to be placed closer to each other than allowed by code.
Ryan Marsh of Musco Lighting, the district's lighting consultant, said new lighting technology would reduce or eliminate the amount of off-field light around Memorial Field.
"It keeps light focused on the field and not in somebody's backyard," Marsh told plan commission members.
Glenbard West Principal Jane Thorsen said school officials encourage student participation in extracurricular activities, and adding lights to Memorial Field would lessen the number of times students have to go off campus to practice.
In total, the district would save 190 bus routes and $29,000 a year, she said.
"We'd like to make campus a centerpiece for our students and our community," Thorsen said. "Keeping students and activities on campus as much as possible will help in this regard."
The district is also requesting variances for installation of permanent bleachers, a batting cage, fencing, an ornamental gate and sidewalk.
At the start of the hearing, Plan Commissioner Jay Strayer said he would recuse himself from voting on the proposal, since he is friends with the district's attorney and they have a mutual client.
That leaves the decision to the other 10 members of the commission. A 5-5 tie would be a rejection of the variance.
Regardless of whether the variances are approved or rejected, the village board will have the final say.