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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.

Jane January 24, 2012 at 05:22 PM
"... many people opposed to the lights are afraid to speak in public." Sad, but true.
J. Burket January 24, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Afraid to speak their minds about the subject in public, or afraid of public speaking in general? Either way, pretty weak if you believe in something and can't muster up the courage to say so.
Ramona January 24, 2012 at 10:12 PM
The OTOF folks had no issues speaking up and being out and out rude to those speaking for lights at Memorial!
Samantha Liss January 24, 2012 at 10:40 PM
It seems to be pretty civil in the comment sections on Patch. People seem to stay away from name calling and other bullying. Is it different in public? I would've guessed it would be worse online when people can hide behind a computer screen.
Ramona January 25, 2012 at 03:27 AM
At the meetings, the OTOF group interrupted speakers on a regular basis, pointing out their properties in pictures, expressing their dissent, etc...instead of waiting until the speaker was done. Mr Ozog would speak in a most belitting way to people.
J. Burket January 25, 2012 at 02:29 PM
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.” Is this even legally possible in the State of Illinois? 65 ILCS 5/11-13-25 does not allow for foot dragging in this circumstance. Especially for a non-binding referendum. A non-binding referendum that cannot determine the outcome of the variance requests in this state. So, the referendum being moot, why would the board wait?
Jane January 25, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Ramona, Thank you for helping me prove a point. Not every individual who has concerns or is opposed to the lights variance requests want to be lumped into a group and attacked. There are people with valid concerns about speaking up... a woman whose husband who works for a large accounting firm that does public audit work... a man who works for a bank that holds government investment accounts... a man who is in construction and cannot afford the backlash/retaliation in the form of contracts lost due to politics. Yes, there are people who are too afraid to speak up in public or even in a letter for fear of some type of retaliation. This is where a private vote cast in a referendum comes in.
Jane January 25, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Perhaps they should ask why the VIllage staff did not present their report/findings to the plan commission and be subject to cross examination. Yet the Village staff now provides testimony before the Village board? Is the testimony of Village planning staff being used as "expert testimony" - if so, shouldn't it have been given to the plan commission and subject to cross-examination? Anyone seen a staff report with recommendations and findings?
J. Burket January 25, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Hello, Jane. Almost married a girl named Jane, but she called it off 4 weeks prior to the event after a 6 1/2 year tryout on my part. Really did us both a favor. Anyway, how many conflicts such as this could possibly exist in Glen Ellyn? Maybe we are just a community of wimps or too genteel to ruffle our neighbor's collective feathers. Either way, if the referendum is non-binding and cannot (should not) influence the variances in question . . . . why lean on it so heavily? Best guess is the District will vote on it after mid-March. I ain't got a horse in this race other than coaching a youth lacrosse team associated with the school, but it seems the village is doing the proper thing by moving forward. To blame them for this situation and for doing their job is silly.
Jane January 25, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Who will pay the cost of defending the Village when OTOF sues because D87 is using the property as an actively programed sports court without applying for or receiving a special use permit? If the Village were rightly concerned about potential litigation and its associated costs, then I would think they would place some importance on the referendum and potential to avoid a lawsuit. From what I understand OTOF has publically stated that they will walk away from a lawsuit if the refendum favors approval of the variance for lights.
Jane January 25, 2012 at 07:31 PM
65 ILCS 5/11-13-25 states: (a) Any decision by the corporate authorities of any municipality, home rule or non-home rule, in regard to any petition or application for a special use, variance, rezoning, or other amendment to a zoning ordinance shall be subject to de novo judicial review as a legislative decision, regardless of whether the process in relation thereto is considered administrative for other purposes. Any action seeking the judicial review of such a decision shall be commenced not later than 90 days after the date of the decision. (b) The principles of substantive and procedural due process apply at all stages of the decision-making and review of all zoning decisions. Will OTOF be able to show a violation of due process rights due to the Village's failure to require a legal notice and hold a public hearing for a special use for Memorial Field?
Ramona January 25, 2012 at 08:15 PM
So Jane, the people who are rude are proving your point? What point is that? If you don't get your way throw a public tantrum? Nice point!
Ramona January 25, 2012 at 08:17 PM
I feel that OTOF group has another agenda, not sure what, but they brought up alternative turf for the football field a number of times, hmm....perhaps someone should follow that lead!?!?!
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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