Barrington Hills approves lighting law for new homes only

Barrington Hills ordinance will only apply to new homes

Barrington Hills officials approved a long-controversial outdoor lighting ordinance Monday by making it applicable only to new homes or those homes expanded to more than half of their existing size.

In fact, the revised ordinance allows the nighttime lighting of outdoor athletic facilities like tennis and basketball courts, which previously was prohibited.

The ordinance received the two-thirds approval required by a resident petition, with only village trustees Beth Mallen and Walter E. Smithe voting against it.

“Probably the most fundamental change to this document is that it applies only to new residential properties in the village, not existing residential properties,” Village Trustee Joseph Messer said.

Messer was charged with ironing out the differing opinions that village board members expressed last November. One of the biggest dilemmas was whether existing homes' lighting levels should be grandfathered into the ordinance or not.

Villagewide debate over the controversial outdoor lighting ordinance has divided the semirural community since the fall of 2009.

Trustee Steve Knoop, a longtime supporter of the ordinance, applauded his colleagues' resolution in not letting anger-fueled resident protests shift them from a proper and thorough review of the proposal.

“The village did not succumb to misrepresentation of its intent,” Knoop said.

Village officials long have said the primary purpose of the ordinance was to prevent light pollution — or “sky glow” — from interfering with neighbors' enjoyment of Barrington Hills' countryside atmosphere.

The ordinance had been revised in recent months into something even critics felt was an improvement.

The once-boisterous opponents of the proposed law came not to argue Monday but simply to observe, claiming their dissatisfaction with the current board and its policies will be solved by the elections in April and in 2013.

Village President Robert Abboud, on the other hand, said the ordinance is intended to provide only the gentle level of regulation that built Barrington Hills' unique countryside atmosphere in the first place.

“The draft looks very good to me,” Abboud said of the ordinance. “I think it works quite well. It's where I expected it to be.”

Abboud said many more intensively developed municipalities already have lighting ordinances, so he was surprised that a Barrington Hills one should be considered so onerous.

Opponents of the ordinance from the village's new Common Sense Party and its preceding group — Homeowners Against Lighting Ordinances — agreed the law has been watered down since it first was proposed.

But it's the principle of having any regulation at all that they're against, Common Sense Party member and village trustee candidate Dede Wamberg said.

Differing completely from Abboud's perception of Barrington Hills' history, Wamberg said the members of her party see the village as a place where residents paid a premium to be free of regulation and left alone.