By Devin Rose
If the River Forest Tennis Club continues to push forward a proposal to install light poles on three of its tennis courts this spring, surrounding residents would like the club to know they are done being good neighbors.
The proposal was met with much frustration during the first public hearing at Roosevelt Middle School on the evening of Dec. 19.
Club President Dan Arends said the idea for the lights came up because staff wanted club members to be able to get more use out of the club, which has been undergoing upgrades over the last 15 years. The upgrades have increased member rates, Arends said. The 107-year-old club, which currently has 225 members, has $100,000 budgeted for the lights.
If they are installed, the club could stay open from roughly April 15 to Oct. 15, said architect Mark Zinni. Arends said extending the hours until 9:30 p.m. would allow members to play after work, which they can't do now. The club is currently open from the beginning of May through September.
Zinni showed results of a study conducted to determine the amount of light spillage using foot candles as the unit of measurement. One foot candle is the amount of light from one candle one foot away. Zinni said renderings of the 12 proposed 26-foot poles with one or two fixtures each showed there would be between zero and half a foot candle of light
But according to several residents, the lights would only benefit the members of what they said was an exclusive and private club, and not the community at large. It would create light pollution and more noise and traffic at night for the neighbors.
Gina Voci, who lives in the 600 block of Lathrop Avenue across from the club, said she has seen club members litter her lawn with cigarette butts and beer bottles and allow their children to walk through her front and back yards. She has found her car blocked in her driveway by other cars that belong to club-goers. Lights from their cars shine straight into her porch and living room. Voci said she even saw someone urinating on her garden after a party at the club.
Other neighbors said the club has refused to shovel their sidewalks in a timely manner, and were concerned property values might be impacted.
Voci said she has never contacted the club or the police to report these incidents. But if lights are installed, "you will find yourselves in a hostile environment of your own making," she said as part of a prepared statement, which drew applause from the crowd.
Voci also questioned why two club members who also sit on the Development Review Board did not recuse themselves from a Nov. 15 vote on the matter. The review board voted to waive a traffic study, economic analysis and drainage plan from their application to install the lights. Assistant Village Administrator Mike Braiman said the club will still be required to submit documents detailing the impact the lights will have on neighboring properties.
Arends said Thursday that he and Vice President Ed Sloan want to compile the information from the meeting and discuss further with the neighbors how they can address concerns. He said they want to have another meeting in the future. When asked if the club will still move forward with the light installation after the meeting, Arends said "we honestly don't know right now."
The Development Review Board is scheduled to discuss the matter at their Jan. 17 meeting.