GEL Editorial: Three Former Village of Glen Ellyn Presidents Question New Lights at Glenbard West

Dear Editor:

As long-time residents and active volunteers in our Village, we would like to express our concern about District 87 plans to install 6 and 7-story light towers on the Glenbard West campus in the heart of our town.  We believe that the potential harm to the quality of life in the community is not an acceptable trade-off for the relatively small percentage of student athletes actually able to use night lighting for spring and fall extra-curricular activities at Memorial Park.

District taxpayers are still paying off the balance of the $1.65 million borrowed to install artificial turf on this practice field, of which $385,000 was paid by private donors.  Since the turf will need to be replaced approximately every 8 years, its installation has created a new cycle of financial need for a school district that only 6 years ago could not fund a full 7-period day for its 9,000 high school students.  Now the administration would like to install massive stadium light towers along the narrow edge of Crescent Boulevard, and spend an additional $600,000 for a permanent loudspeaker system, a 250-seat stadium bleacher and other field enhancements.  Complicating matters is talk of a parking lot on the tree-lined triangular piece of land on Crescent, just east of the busy intersection at Park Boulevard.

Of equal concern, the District is reserving the right to lease the field to outside, third-party organizations for games, increasing use to three seasons a year with lights and speakers on as late as 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. every night except Sunday.  Since Memorial is not intended for football games, the D87 superintendent has made it clear that the next step is Duchon Field, adjoining Lake Ellyn Park on the north side of the school.

Students at Glenbard West are privileged to attend school in such a beautiful setting.  Duchon Field has been named one of the most idyllic places in the country to watch a Saturday afternoon football game, a feature that has attracted high attendance from residents for decades.  Given the proximity of both fields to private homes, Lake Ellyn, commuter trains and the historic downtown, this type of intrusive lighting, loudspeaker noise and traffic congestion would have a negative impact on the Village.

The section of Crescent Boulevard between Riford and Park has one of the highest incidents of traffic accidents in town.  Adding even more distractions and congestion to the area after dark . . . as well as blinding lights . . . would create an unacceptable safety hazard for both students, drivers and pedestrians.

Concerns by nearby residents that their property values and quality of life will be adversely impacted are well-founded.  District 87 maintains that the eleven variances requested from the Village will enhance the value of adjacent properties.  However, the glare of these light towers, high above the tree line and taller than the school itself, will be seen from far away.  This over-development is at odds with the spirit of the new long-term Downtown Strategic Plan that was designed to attract more residents and visitors to our central business district.  Nighttime traffic congestion on one of the main arteries into the downtown would add one more reason to avoid the area.  

In 2001, our Village Board reduced the height limitation for the downtown area to 45 feet or four stories to keep all architecture to an intimate, human scale.  As a beautification project several years ago, the Village removed the unsightly utility poles along Crescent Boulevard in front of the school and buried the electric and telephone wires underground.  The proposed 60 and 70-foot light towers, day or night, would be visually intrusive, an ugly addition to Memorial Park, and would detract from the character of our historic school, neighborhoods and downtown.

The eleven variances have been submitted to the Plan Commission for review and approval before the matter goes to the Village trustees for a final vote.  Incredibly, however, in a May 20, 2011 letter from Legat Architects on behalf of District 87, the following language made it clear that the District believes that the submission of the application is merely a matter of courtesy.

“The School District reserves its authority, to the full extent permitted by law, to improve Memorial Field as necessary to meet its program needs, should the variance process or result unduly restrict the District from meeting such needs.”

As this matter moves forward over the next few weeks, we believe the Plan Commission and Village Board should thoroughly consider the detrimental and permanent impact that these eleven variances will have upon our Village.

Respectfully,

Vicky Hase, former Village President 2005-2009
Joe Wark, former Village President 1997-2001
Frank Wiedner, former Village President 1969-1973

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