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Chicago Daily Herald
Glen Ellyn Park District board OKs funding for lights at Newton Park
Glen Ellyn Park District commissioners approved a $250,000 budget Tuesday to install lights at Newton Park over the objections of neighbors.
The board voted 5-2 to earmark the money to put four 70-foot-tall light poles on the sidelines of the park's synthetic turf field. Commissioners Chris Wilson and Kathy Cornell opposed the funding for a project that Wilson said would change the character of a 25-acre park nestled in the middle of a neighborhood.
Opponents will likely renew their fight against the lights when the park district seeks variances from village code that restricts the height of light poles to the tallest structure on the property. At Newton, the highest building is only about 20 feet tall.
The park district will now prepare an application for those exemptions. The village's plan commission would make a recommendation in favor or against the lights, and village trustees would ultimately decide whether the park district can proceed with the project.
The issue divides youth football team coaches who support the lights and neighbors who urged commissioners to delay a vote until the park district addresses their complaints about traffic and parking.
They fear those problems will intensify if the park district installs the lights and allows Glenbard West High School athletes and other users to play on the field into the evening.
Neighbors and park district officials held their first meeting last week to discuss a parking plan that calls for, among other things, putting up signs and using volunteers to direct traffic. Police could not attend but are expected to join the group when members gather at a yet to be determined date.
Neighbors wanted commissioners to postpone the funding decision Tuesday until the park district tests the parking plan during the spring and fall seasons.
"We don't know if that plan is going to work, said neighbor Ben Stortz, who noted that Newton lacks the infrastructure of other park district sites to handle such traffic.
As part of its 2017 budget - also approved Tuesday - the park district will set aside about $80,000 for improvements designed to encourage families to park within Newton and not residential streets. Those include adding a path from the east parking lot to the central corridor of the park.
If the village gives the OK, commissioners pledged to defer the bidding on the lights until the traffic and safety concerns are resolved.
"I just feel we owe it to the neighbors to make it very clear to them that we have heard them, and that we will follow through," board Vice President Julia Nephew said.
The park district has proposed "blackout" months that would shut off the lights December through February and in July.
At the latest, the lights would turn off by 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Events on the field would have to end by 9:30 p.m., though park district officials say most programs don't last that long. The lights would remain off when the field is not in use.
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