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updated: 12/30/2011 10:00 AM

Early indications show village board support for Glenbard West lights

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  • The Glen Ellyn village board will consider a variance request next month from Glenbard High School District 87 to install lights at Memorial Field.

      The Glen Ellyn village board will consider a variance request next month from Glenbard High School District 87 to install lights at Memorial Field.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer


At least three of six Glen Ellyn trustees say they will vote next month in favor of a controversial plan to install lights at a Glenbard West High School field.

Village President Mark Pfefferman would only vote if there is a tie, and he said he hasn't made up his mind yet.

Following 11 meetings of the plan commission over the course of four months, the village board is expected to take up the lights proposal on Jan. 23. The commission voted 6-3 last week to recommend approval of the zoning variances requested by Glenbard High School District 87 to install four 70-foot and two 60-foot light poles at Memorial Field.

School district officials have argued the lights would allow greater use of the field for students. Some neighbors have countered that the lights would alter the character of the neighborhood and lead to increased noise and traffic.

Pfefferman said trustees have been provided with transcripts and related documents from every plan commission meeting, many of which lasted around three hours. He expects the board to discuss the issue at two meetings -- a Jan. 23 workshop session and a Jan. 30 regular meeting.

A vote is expected at the second meeting, Pfefferman said.

Trustees Carl Henninger, Pete Ladesic and Phil Hartweg told the Daily Herald they will likely vote in favor of the variance request for lights.

"I've pretty much said all along, as with any recommendation that comes from one of our commissions that holds hearings, I would put a lot of weight into what they determined -- whether it was yes or no," Henninger said. "I'm leaning toward supporting it because of the fact the plan commission supported it."

Ladesic said Glenbard West doesn't have enough fields for its students, and it's "landlocked" in the middle of town. He says he disagrees with the "not-in-my-backyard" arguments made by opponents of the lights.

"If you buy a house and you're one block from the school or across the railroad tracks, those arguments aren't going to fly with me," he said.

Hartweg said athletics and physical education -- and the noise and activity that results -- is part of what occurs at high schools.

"My overall contention is probably, a school is meant to be a school," Hartweg said. "I'm not 100 percent sure, but I'd probably be leaning in the direction that says lights would be a valuable use of the property."

Trustees Robert Friedberg and Diane McGinley said they will wait until the village board meetings to publicly declare their opinions. Trustee Peter Cooper couldn't be reached.

During plan commission hearings, Glenbard officials and members of Our Field, Our Town, an anti-lights citizens group, made presentations both for and against the proposal, and brought in witnesses to testify on their behalf, including lights and zoning experts.

Because the plan commission proceedings were so extensive, Pfefferman said there will be time limits on speakers during the village board's consideration of the variance requests. Each side will be able to make a 40-minute presentation at the workshop and 10-minute presentation at the regular meeting. Additional public comment could be limited to no more than three minutes per person, depending on how many people sign up to speak, Pfefferman said.

Kirk Burger, an organizer of Our Field, Our Town, said he thinks it's a mistake for the village board to take a vote before the results of an expected nonbinding, villagewide referendum on the lights proposal. In October, Burger's group filed petitions with the village clerk's office to get the question on the March 20 primary ballot.

"I'm not certain I understand the urgency," Burger said. "To me it shows a great disrespect to their constituents."

Henninger said the village board doesn't want to duplicate the plan commission's process, and it's likely there won't be anything new brought up that hasn't already been mentioned.

"At this point it's becoming a fairness issue to the school district as the applicants," he said. "It's really drawn out longer for them than most applications of this type. We have somewhat of an obligation to give them an answer so they can move forward with whatever their plans are in a timely manner."

Henninger said there are certainly vocal opponents and supporters of the lights, but most people he's talked to "are somewhat displeased that it has to be such a big deal for a relatively simple decision."

"They may have an opinion to some degree, but they can live with a decision one way or another," he said.

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