On Monday, proponents and opponents of proposed lights at Memorial Field made last ditch efforts to sway village trustees before an expected Jan. 30 vote that could potentially decide the issue that has been debated since August.
But some residents, like Don Pydo of Our Field Our Town, took issue with some village officials who shared their support of erecting lights with the Daily Herald. Pydo said their comments do a disservice to residents opposed to the proposal and expressed concern over some trustees, such as Pete Ladesic, who had signs supporting lights at Memorial Field in his yard.
Ladesic said his wife placed a pro-lights sign in their yard, and was told by the village attorney that they were not in any statutory or ethical violation.
In December, the village Plan Commission voted 6-3 in favor of lights at the athletic field. On Monday, Jan. 25, the issue went before Glen Ellyn's village board of trustees in the first of two meetings.
Again, school leaders said the lights would provide greater use of the field for student athletics, while residents expressed concern that lights would negatively impact the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
Trustee Peter Cooper said he was concerned about light spillover, a chief concern of many residents opposed to the lights. He expressed a desire to visit an area field with comparable lighting.
School architect Patrick Brosnan, of Legat Architects, said Nike Park in Naperville is the closest athletic field that uses similar technology. He displayed a nighttime aerial photo of the park to show the limited light spill on the surrounding area.
Cooper wanted trustees to see the lighting system in operation. Brosnan said the fields at Nike Park are not currently in use. He warned that if the lights are turned on for the trustees, any snow on the ground would reflect the light and would not provide an accurate visual.
Trustees wrangled over the definition of a sport court and whether or not Memorial Field met that definition. Village staff said it did not, and there was no suggestion of seeking additional variations for the lights.
However, Our Field Our Town Attorney Jim Ozog called Memorial Field the “largest sports court in town.” During previous testimony, school officials said the field could be interpreted as a sport court, and Ozog warned approving the ordinances as is could open the village to potential lawsuits.
Ozog, Pydo and several Glen Ellyn residents urged the board to hold off on making a decision until the votes are cast during the advisory referendum.
“Six weeks of delay won’t do any harm to anybody,” Ozog said. “Let’s end the controversy once and for all. You don’t have to accept the findings, it’s advisory, but let the people speak.”
Trustee Carl Henninger did not seem convinced of the need to wait. He asked what the referendum results would tell trustees that they had not already heard expressed in the multiple public hearings.
For each resident who urged the board to wait, Trustees asked if they believed residents were stifled at any time during the debate. The residents said “no,” but added many people opposed to the lights are afraid to speak in public.
Village President Mark Pfefferman said under Illinois law zoning rules can't be decided by a referendum vote. He also said board members, like legislators, can express opinons about issues prior to taking a vote.
The village board is expected to vote on the Memorial Field proposals next week. If the village supports the variation requests, the District 87 Board of Education will have to finalize the lights with a vote.