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Memorial Lights Controversy Nears End

Village board hears testimony and asks questions of residents, District 87 and Our Field Our Town. Some urge board to wait until March referendum before voting on variances.

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  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 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 , 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.

J. Burket January 25, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Best guess as to who will pay the legal bills should OFOT sue the village is you, and me, and every one of the 27,000+ who live in this fine village. I assume that is part of the cost of doing day to day business.
George P January 25, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Doesn't the Village Board have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the public? Can the Village Board not see that there is reasonably foreseeable economic harm to the citizens of GE by not waiting for the outcome of a referndum that seeks public opinion?
Steve Seaney January 26, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Jane, I'm not really sure what you're trying to state from the citation. The village has certainly followed their standard processes to date. Both sides of the argument have had an extensive (dare I say exhaustive) amount of time to make their cases; it would be very difficult to argue rationally the effort has not been substantive and procedural. It's rather sad, but it's not surprising OTOF would purse litigation if they do not achieve their desired outcome. My understanding of the citations mentioned to date indicate the village: (1) should strive to follow their zoning processes (which has not historically involved a referendum), (2) can not be legally consider a referendum, and (3) must move forward without foot dragging. Steve
Steve Seaney January 26, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Have you ever seen a small child threaten to throw a tantrum in order to 'get what they want'? Steve
Ramona January 26, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Yes, I have Steve, having my own kids and doing a decade of daycare, but the way to handle it is diffuse it by pointing out how childish and silly the tantrum would be!!

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