Decision on Barrington Hills 'Dark Sky' ordinance deferred again

Barrington Hills' zoning board late Monday again deferred its long-awaited decision as to whether to recommend approval of a proposed outdoor lighting ordinance to the village board.

The zoning board will take up the issue again at its next meeting Aug. 16.

The research and writing of the proposed ordinance over the past nine months has proved extremely divisive of the thinly populated, semirural community.

The village board would make the final decision on such an ordinance, even with a positive recommendation from the zoning board.

While the actual language of the ordinance has proved too dry to attract many of even its strongest critics in recent months, both sides in the debate have accused each other of political motives having little to do with lighting.

But residents again packed Barrington Hills' small meeting room to capacity for Monday's hearing, which was hoped to complete the ordinance's small but significant details such as how long residents would have to adapt.

Among the details that were settled Monday was the exemption of security lighting from the proposed regulations and, more importantly, a definition of exactly what security lighting is.

Though there was some initial disagreement among members, the zoning board eventually leaned toward defining security lighting as lighting that's turned on either automatically or manually in response to an actual threat in progress.

"What we're trying to get away from is someone saying, 'All the lighting on my property is security lighting,' because that's really not the case," zoning board Chairman Jonathan Knight said.

Knight also said he felt comfortable that the ordinance had evolved into something far less harsh than most critics originally feared last October. He believed about 99 percent of residents were already in compliance with the proposed regulations.

In any case, enforcement would be done only on a complaint basis, not by the village actively measuring the lighting levels on every property, Knight said.

Apart from holiday and security lights, the ordinance limits the amount of outdoor lighting to 10,000 lumens per acre. Residential property in Barrington Hills has a minimum size of five acres.

Though lumens are difficult to quantify without measuring equipment, Knight said a 75-watt bulb generates a little more than 1,000 lumens.

But the argument from the opposition group HALO - Homeowners Against Lighting Ordinances - is that further regulation is an infringement of their property rights. They blame Village President Robert Abboud for not stopping the debate in its early stages, saying he's eager for Barrington Hills to be designated a Dark Sky Community by the Arizona-based International Dark Sky Association for future political gain.

Abboud, who's previously challenged Republican 16th District U.S. Congressman Don Manzullo, characterized the criticisms of HALO as backlash for that. He said lighting ordinances are something almost every community has, and that Barrington Hills is the distinctive community it is today only because of stronger regulations.