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Plan Commission Approves Memorial Lights

In 6-3 vote commissioners approve variance for lights at Glenbard West High School. Proposal now heads to the village board.

The Glen Ellyn Plan Commission handed out early gifts of coal to opponents of a plan to install lights at Memorial Field.

On Tuesday the Plan Commission voted 6-3 in favor of lights at the athletic field, although there were some conditions attached to the vote. The approval called for a village advisory group to be created to review the lights annually, a 9 p.m. lights out policy at the field, no use of lights before the beginning of the school day and no lights to be used at the field over the summer months. The commissioners also attached a conditional use on a public address system with the lights ordinance. The commissioners recommended that a PA system cannot be used after 7 p.m. on nights when lights are in use.

Other variances approved by the commission would allow a new gate, fence and batting cage received greater support.

Although the commission’s vote was a major hurdle for  to move forward with its plans, it is not the final stop. The village board of commissioners will now have to examine the plan and give its approval before any changes can take place at Memorial Field.

Members of Our Field Our Town, the group opposed to the lights, said despite the commissions’ vote, they will continue to press their concerns with the board of trustees.

“We haven’t given up,” Kirk Burger, president of OFOT, said after the vote.

Over the course of the public hearings OFOT expressed concern about noise and light pollution, as well as use of school funds for athletic facilities to the detriment of funding academic programs.

Tuesday night’s meeting was the first time members of the Plan Commission voiced their opinion about the multiple variances concerning Memorial Field, particularly the installation of a $300,000 lighting system.

Early in the meeting Commissioner Todd Buckton announced his opposition to the multiple variances before the board. He said the changes under the variances would alter the “quiet beauty and sublime pleasure” of Glen Ellyn. Buckton said the changes at the field were too much for the community.

Commissioner Jeff Girling agreed. He said the language before the commission specified the word locality, not village. He said lights will alter the character of the locality around the school.

“You will be able to see the lights from the surrounding area and that to me alters the central character of the locality.” Girling said.

Commissioner Linda Dykstra said the impact of light pollution to the surrounding neighborhoods was too significant for her support.

Commissioner Julie McCormick said the light spill from the field would not have a negative impact on neighboring properties. She did press for a change in the turnoff time, initially recommending 8 p.m. before agreeing with the 9 p.m. time.

Commissioner Eric Ford said he spent several hours walking around the field during athletic practices and games listening to the sounds of the games as well as traffic. Ford said his conclusion is “a lot of the imposition and difficulty presented as a disaster for the neighborhood” he doesn’t agree with.

When it was clear that a majority of the commissioners supported approving the variances, commissioners wrangled over the conditional uses they wanted attached to the variances before bringing a series of motions forward to approve the variances.

Staci Hulesberg, planning and development director, said village trustees are set to begin examining the Memorial Field variances at a Jan. 16 workshop. The village board could vote on the issue as soon as Jan. 23.

K Buchnat December 28, 2011 at 12:38 AM
Just curious as to what these top 4 high schools are? There are so many rankings it is hard to sort out which is which? Although, it really doesn't matter that much to me. I don't agree that we need the lights because others have them-as we can always find schools that make due with less than what we have. I do, however, support utilizing our field space as much as we can, so I am in favor of lights at Memorial.
Bill December 28, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Here are a few lists. I found no lists that included Glenbard West as a "Top 50" school. Based on percentage of student meeting state standards.. http://schools.chicagotribune.com/lists/best-overall-psae Based on average PSAE scores... http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/8475592-418/the-top-50-high-schools-in-illinois.html
K Buchnat December 28, 2011 at 09:41 PM
Thanks, Bill. The reason I asked was because you stated that the top 4 high schools do not have lighted fields, and suggested there is a correlation between their ranking and the money spent on academics. If you look at your first link, the top 4 are Northside College Prep, Whitney Young Magnet, Payton College Prep, and Jones College Prep. These are all schools with selective enrollment policies, so I am not surprised that their test scores are high. You can’t really compare a selective enrollment school with a non-selective enrollment school. It is just not an apple to apples comparison. You might want to note that 2 of these 4 schools don’t even have football teams—so it might be a hard sell for them to put some lights in! If you look at the second list, all the schools are the same except New Trier replaces Jones College Prep. Pretty sure that New Trier has at least 1 lighted field (might even have 2?), so I don’t think your comparisons really shed much light on the issue.
Bill December 29, 2011 at 10:46 PM
Payton HS has a football team... they play at Lane Tech, about 5 miles from their campus. All that time travelling to/from practice seems to have had no negative impact on academic performance at Payton HS. Let's compare Glenbard West to New Trier. Both are public schools with general enrollment. Both have historic structures on the main campus in established upper middle class neighborhoods with high property tax bills. New Trier has a second campus in Northfield about 3 miles from their main campus. Upper classmen (Soph-Sr) are on the main campus, Freshmen at the Northfield campus. New Trier athletic fields, including the competition stadium are at the Northfield campus. Shuttle buses run all day and into the early evening between campuses. The Northfield campus is next to the Edens Expressway, not located right next homes or in an historic, charming part of town. New Trier students, like the Payton HS students, spend time on buses shuttling to/from practice, yet New Trier students manage to average 27.5 on the ACT while Glenbard West students average ACT scares are much lower - only 23.5. A comparision of graduation rates, college readiness is similar. http://winnetka.patch.com/articles/new-trier-class-of-11-act-scores-are-higher-than-ever http://schools.chicagotribune.com/school/new-trier-township-high-school-northfield_northfield
Ramona January 06, 2012 at 04:01 AM
As someone who attended a school with split campuses, Lake Park in Roselle, I hated it. It is a waste of time to be shuttled back and forth, it was one reason we choose to stay near West! For every stellar school you show without lights, I could show you two with, so what!?! I'd rather our athletes stick closer to campus and it is never a good thing when all your home games are away!

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