After 11 Glen Ellyn plan commission hearings and two village board meetings, village trustees Monday unanimously approved a controversial proposal to install lights at a Glenbard West High School practice field.
Since Glenbard High School District 87 officials first proposed installation of four 70-foot-tall and two 60-foot-tall light poles last January, pro- and anti-lights forces have spoken at the public meetings, lobbied school district and village leaders, and posted signs in front lawns.
And Members of Our Field Our Town, a citizens group opposed to the lights, garnered signatures to get a nonbinding referendum on the March 20 primary ballot that will ask Glen Ellyn voters to weigh in on the issue.
Organizers of the referendum push asked village trustees to delay their vote until after Election Day. But Village President Mark Pfefferman and Village Attorney Julie Tappendorf said under state statute, zoning decisions can't be made by referendum.
Indeed, trustees voted as planned Monday, in a 6-0 decision that grants the district's variance requests for the lights at Memorial Field, as well as installation of fencing, an ornamental gate, a batting cage, a sidewalk and bleachers.
Trustee Robert Friedberg said he didn't believe the character of the neighborhood would be altered by the installation of the lights -- a key argument of lights opponents -- though he admitted it was a decision he wrestled with.
Trustee Phil Hartweg said it would be "a wise thing" to maximize use of the property. School district officials had argued that the lights would allow greater use of the field by students.
"I think that character and reputation will be shown off even more by adding this particular new phase to Glenbard West and the community," Hartweg said.
Trustee Peter Cooper said he believed school district officials demonstrated that the lights would fall in line with their educational mission. He also said his concerns over safety and noise have been accommodated after listening to testimony at meetings.
The approval comes with the condition that lights not be used by third parties, and that the lights not be on during the summer, weekends, or early mornings.
During plan commission hearings, District 87 agreed to a "hard shut-off" time of 9 p.m., though three trustees on Monday sought to move the time later to 9:30 p.m.
Pfefferman cast an unofficial tiebreaking vote to keep the time at 9 p.m., since school district officials didn't seek to change it.
Cooper noted the contention over the issue in the community. But he said he was pleased to see the school district's concessions to accommodate neighbors, and that both sides could work together.
"I think we have a compromise," Cooper said.
Per the zoning variance approvals, a district-led advisory group will be established to discuss lights at Memorial Field. It will be comprised of a representative from the school district, village government, and the community.