The special council hired by the River Forest Park District urged the Development Review Board (DRB) last Thursday to approve an amended application for lights at Keystone Park West, saying the application meets all village standards.

With all five parks commissioners and parks executive director Tom Grundin seated behind him, attorney Robert K. Bush also cross-examined village lighting consultant Peter Hugh.

After Bush finished, the DRB adjourned until its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for June 15, when the review board will deliberate on the issue of lights in Keystone West for the third time.

The nearly three-hour hearing began with Hugh’s review of his assessment of light levels in Keystone East, which found several higher light readings?#34;particularly along Lake Street and parts of Hawthorne Avenue?#34;than those found by the park district’s contractor, Musco Lighting, during the spring of 2005.

Hugh concluded by making several recommendations intended to lessen the impact of the lights on both the east and west fields. He urged that the existing east field light fixtures be re-aimed and electronically re-circuited to allow the lights to be turned off during practice times. That alone, he said, would lower light output from 50 foot-candles to something approaching 30 foot-candles (the basic unit of measure for field illumination).

The fixtures, he said, should also be fitted with new visors to reduce glare.

Praising the newer lighting technology proposed for the west fields as superior to the east field lights, Hugh recommended that the poles in Keystone West, if installed, be 70 feet tall, rather than 60, thus allowing steeper light angles that result in less glare.

In addition, Hugh suggested circuiting the electrical system to allow the lights at the north end of the field to be turned off during practices, having Musco guarantee in writing that the vertical light levels in their March 30, 2004 lighting plan not exceed .18 foot-candles entering adjacent homes, and that the park district agree to utilize trees and bushes to mute the impact of any lighting on nearby residences.

Bush appeared to call Hugh’s qualifications into question when he inquired into his experience designing athletic fields, particularly ball diamonds and soccer fields. Hugh, who is a Midwest vice-president of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, has no experience designing ball diamonds, and little with soccer fields.

Referring to a four-zone classification system used to characterize light pollution, Bush also attacked Hugh’s assertion that River Forest was a “Zone 2,” or darker environment, placing it closer to a forest preserve environment than to downtown Chicago. River Forest, Bush said, was “just 10 miles from downtown Chicago.”

Bush’s presentation it appeared to do little to ease the frustration of park neighbors, who expressed deep distrust of the park district’s willingness to respect their concerns.

The majority of the 10 park neighbors who spoke against the plan implored the DRB to require the park district to first fix what they said were serious problems with the east field lights prior to approving new lights in Keystone West.

There were also indications that a significant difference of opinion continues between the village and the park district regarding the standards and parameters for judging the amended application. The park board has consistently rejected the idea that the current application before the DRB regards anything other than lights in Keystone Park. However, when Bush prefaced a question to Hugh by saying, “You understand that this isn’t about the east field, this is an application about the west field,” DRB Chairman Frank Martin corrected him, saying, “This is an application to amend the planned development that covers the whole park, counselor.”

Join the discussion on social media!