In the dispute over lights at OPRF stadium, are the opponents NIMBYs? Judging by the majority of the letters to the editor I've received, I'd have to say yes.
That doesn't mean they don't have valid concerns and complaints. They do, and I sympathize. Friday night football games will be an aggravation for some (not all). It will draw (I hope, for the sake of the high school) a sizable crowd. It's reasonable to be concerned about litter and security.
It's not reasonable to assert that your property values will plummet. (The burden of proof is on the opponents, and it would have to be a clear pattern of plummeting around lighted stadiums throughout the western suburbs. I simply don't believe it.) Nor is it reasonable to assume intoxicated and/or drug-crazed youth will riot on your front lawns or parkways. Nor will fans stop to urinate on your lawns. And it's really off the wall to maintain that the lights will cause the deaths of a myriad migrating birds each fall and spring. Most of all, it will not destroy your peaceful way of life?#34;only irritate and complicate it, briefly and occasionally.
But NIMBYs have a tendency to throw everything at the wall, unreasonable with the reasonable, to see what sticks. That undermines credibility. Better, in my opinion, to be an IIMBYIDC: If In My Back Yard, I Deserve Consideration.
And the neighbors do deserve consideration. The lights are bright. If possible, even if it costs more, the high school should find lights that reduce the residual glare (though they won't be able to reduce it all, hence the aggravation). Fights do break out at sporting events (and some kids do drink). But if you've ever been to an OPRF sporting event, you know that security personnel, boosted by the Oak Park police, are frighteningly quick to smother any disturbance. In fact, it's a little unsettling to watch.
The school should have litter patrols scouring the lawns of all the neighbors following every game. And they should limit the number of games where the lights are turned on, as well as the hours of use. Hell, operations manager Jack Lanenga should give neighbors his cell phone number so they can lodge complaints instantly.
That's consideration and the neighbors deserve it.
They should not, however, be able to veto lights when there are good reasons to use them?#34;expanded use of limited fields, giving bored adolescents something fun and worthwhile to do on a Friday night, reviving school spirit and a moribund football program?#34;all compelling reasons, which indirectly benefit the whole community.
When community interests conflict with the personal comfort levels of a limited number of property owners, the former should always take precedence?#34;with one caveat: that some buffer (at least one street) exists between the residents and the lighted location. Is your peace and quiet really more important than something that would benefit so many others? If you believe personal property rights always take precedence over community interests, then in my book, you're a NIMBY.
Over at Keystone Park West in River Forest, the story is different. Two multifamily buildings abut the park with no buffer, no street, in between. At least one large light standard would have to be placed directly in front of the buildings with the others shining into their windows, unobstructed. Those residents have a much more compelling argument, which means they aren't NIMBYs. I'm not sure "consideration" is even possible in that case.
At OPRF High School, the neighbors should stop opposing the lights and put all their efforts into "consideration." The high school, in my opinion, has a responsibility, if not a moral obligation to address their concerns in a practical, tangible way. If they do that in good faith, the opponents should bow to the greater good, not demand a thousand and one environmental studies.
And what will they do on Friday nights each fall to cope with this unwanted intrusion? Well, they can either turn their houses into bunkers and sulk ... or they can take a more reasonable approach.
Why not attend the games (courtesy of OPRF, of course)?