Barrington Hills still debating limits on outdoor lighting

Barrington Hills residents on both sides give their opinion

By Joel Ebert
Updated 10/26/2010 8:01 PM

More than 100 residents turned out Monday for what may have been their final chance to weigh in on Barrington Hills' controversial plan to limit property owners' outdoor lighting.

"I feel bullied by you guys telling me I can't have my lights on," resident Ralph Sesso told village leaders.


The "dark sky" proposal, labeled the "most divisive issue Barrington Hills has ever faced" by village Trustee Walter E. Smithe, would enact a village ordinance governing the amount and type of exterior lighting residents can use, as well as when they can use it.

Residents found in violation could be fined up to $50 a day, while businesses and other property owners could face daily fines of up to $150. Village trustees could vote on the ordinance as early as their Nov. 22 meeting.

But if some residents and officials get their way, a final decision on the issue that's divided the community for more than a year wouldn't come until voters weigh in on a spring 2011 referendum.

Smithe proposed the ballot measure, and while most residents at Monday's meeting backed the suggestion, no action was taken.

The ordinance, if passed, would give current homeowners until Jan. 1, 2031, to bring any excessive lighting into compliance. "We're not trying to penalize any of our residents who've spent a great deal of money on their landscape lighting," zoning board member Kurt Anderson said when that provision was added in August.

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While the ordinance has long proposed limiting outdoor lighting on residential property to an average of 10,000 lumens per "measured acre," the ordinance was revised to allow the acre on which the house actually sits to have up to 15,000 lumens at night. Despite the change, Trustee Joseph Messer took issue with aspects of the proposed ordinance, including concretely defining the term "measured acre." Messer intends to continue to revise the proposed ordinance.

While lumens are hard to quantify without measuring equipment, a 75-watt light bulb generates a little more than 1,000 lumens.

Residential property in Barrington Hills is zoned to be a minimum of five acres.

Some restrictions in the ordinance that would take effect sooner include a 15-foot height limit on lights and a ban on mercury vapor lighting. They would both start in only five years.

The ordinance is intended to be used only in situations where two neighbors cannot resolve a dispute over lighting on their own, Knight said.

Supporters of the proposal praised the work of village officials Monday, but opponents claimed the measure would impede their basic rights.


Others questioned the way the village board has gone about considering the ordinance.

"Lots of people are being alienated by this process," resident Laura Ekstrom said.

Some residents were surprised at the amount of attention the issue has garnered. "A real mountain is being made out of a molehill," Peer Lykke said.

"I think there's more important issues on the table than lights," added resident Ron Hawking.

The village board was also presented at the meeting with hundreds of petition signatures by Barrington Hills residents requesting a supermajority vote on the lighting ordinance, or a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority.

Because of the 17,700 acres of forest preserve that falls under the village's jurisdiction, the signatures gathered did not meet the percentage of residents necessary to require a supermajority vote, said Douglas Wambach, village attorney. Dennis Gallitano, the filer of the petitions, objected to Wambach's interpretation, arguing the village could not claim jurisdiction over the forest preserve. Wambach said he will further examine the issue before the next board meeting.

Village President Robert Abboud was pleased with Monday's discussion, but added, "We certainly have our work cut out for us."

Abboud said village board members will debate the lighting ordinance at its Nov. 22 meeting, and possibly take a vote that night.

Lights: Effort to require two-thirds vote quashed