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updated: 7/10/2013 11:48 AM

Rolling Meadows adds residential lights to nuisance list

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Light and glare have joined smells, smoke and junk on the list of punishable nuisances in Rolling Meadows.

The city council Tuesday approved an ordinance outlawing residential "light trespass."

While no residents spoke publicly about the amendment to the environment portion of the city's code, some had obviously contacted officials.

Alderman Brad Judd of the 4th Ward called the ordinance "Big Brotherish," and unsuccessfully asked that the nuisance only be banned from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., rather than dusk to dawn, which he said could infringe on residents' washing their cars or having parties on great February weekends. A specific hour limit would make light similar to noise regulations, he said.

However, Mayor Tom Rooney said residents with complaints about neighbors' lighting habits told him they object to such an amendment because they suffer for a longer part of the day during darker times of the year.

"Noise wakes people up; light annoys people who are awake," said Rooney.

Alderman Jim Larsen of the 7th Ward agreed.

"In February, shining a great big bright light in a guy's window at 8 p.m. just to get under his skin is a problem."

The ordinance says that if light spilling on a neighbor's property is more than one foot-candle, it constitutes light trespass. The village would only act on complaints.

Complaints will be handled at an adjudication hearing at City Hall, rather than in court. The offense is a misdemeanor, and while no fine is spelled out in the ordinance, the city's code generally calls for a range of fines from $50 to $1,000.

Valerie Dehner, community development director, said she has fielded at least six complaints over the years, but has told residents the city could do nothing without an ordinance.

Exemptions include seasonal lights such as Christmas lights allowed for 60 days, sports fields and signs that conform with the city's rules.

Rooney said after the meeting that more than one person has complained about light and glare, but a recent case aldermen referred to during the meeting involved a homeowner who thinks a neighbor purposely used a light to annoy him.

Judd and Mike Cannon of the 1st Ward voted against the ordinance. Len Prejna of the 2nd Ward was absent.

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