I was disappointed to read the recent editorial in Wednesday Journal regarding our efforts to increase the utility of our limited youth sports facilities by adding lights to the west field at Keystone Park. The Journal accuses the park board, of which I am a new member, of having an "arrogant insistence that they have addressed all concerns and addresses all DRB standards" [River Forest park board needs to see the light, Our Views, Nov. 9]. Before writing this letter, I reviewed once again the "Findings of Fact" from the last time this issue was brought before the Development Review Board (DRB) in July of 2004. While the Journal's reporter attended most of our board meetings and both of the DRB meetings so far, he seems more interested in reporting on the controversy than the facts. Perhaps that's why the Journal's editorial is so far off base. The "Findings of Fact" by the DRB fell into two main categories and both were dealt with in our recent application.
The first major finding was that the village had no experience with lighting of this type. We now have a spring baseball season and fall soccer season under our belt and have received overwhelming positive response to the lighting on Keystone East. The only negatives are from those living directly adjacent to the park and have been limited to the position that there should be no lights at all. Additionally, at the request of some members of the village board, the park district and our lighting designer conducted a special evaluation of the lighting "spill" with members of the village board in attendance. This series of measurements included taking additional measurements specifically requested by a member of the village board with streetlights in the area extinguished. The results in all cases showed that lighting spill from the lights on Keystone East is within the specifications contained in the July 2004 DRB application.
The second major finding was that the board had not established a policy limiting the use of the lights. As part of the current application, we provided a lighting use policy that would result in "lights out" by 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday. A provision for exceptions, if requested by our users, was included. Those, however, would be infrequent, which has been the experience so far on Keystone East. At the last DRB meeting, it was suggested that we also limit the days of operation to coincide with the seasons of need. At our board meeting on Nov. 7, President Dudek presented, and we unanimously approved, a revision to that policy which limits the dates of light operation to April 1 through June 15 and August 15 through November 20. By adoption of this policy, we addressed the primary reason given by the DRB in July 2004 for voting to recommend rejection of the park board's application.
The Journal also stated in their editorial that the park board had not made a case for the lights. I suggest they take the time to read the application. It is much more extensive than the earlier application and contains a strong case, including a table showing the soccer teams that lose practice time during each fall due to reduction in daylight hours. In the end, however, it was the volunteers from the various youth athletics organizations who made the most compelling case in favor of the application.
Lastly, the Journal accused the park board of having an inappropriately combative attitude. Yet we have taken a number of steps to address the comments and concerns of our neighbors, as detailed above, all the while being told by those in opposition that the only outcome they will accept is no lights at all. Yet, on a similar issue?#34;lights at the OPRF stadium?#34;the Journal, in an editorial on Oct. 26, dismissed the concerns of the residents living near that stadium by saying that "the benefits of the entire community far outweigh what is, in our opinion, a minor intrusion." I leave it to the reader to determine which position is more sensitive to the neighbors of the facilities in question and demonstrate a combative attitude.