During its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, Wilmette’s Village Board approved, with a 6-1 vote, a request from Loyola Academy that can allow the private highschool to put in and operate everlasting outdoor lights at its athletic stadium on the northeast corner of Lake and Laramie avenues.
As previously reported by The Record, the anchor of the varsity’s proposal is its plans to put in 4 80-foot light poles, two on either side of Hoerster Field, at Sachs Stadium on its Wilmette campus. Before Loyola’s request made its solution to trustees, Wilmette’s Zoning Board of Appeals considered the proposal over eight hours of debate spread across two separate meetings, ultimately giving the request a negative suggestion with a 3-2 vote.
The varsity scaled down its request following the negative consequence from the zoning board. Its updated proposal reduced the utmost of Friday night athletic contests from five to 4. It also included a provision that it’ll limit light use to 3 Friday night football games for the primary and second seasons after the lights are installed, in accordance with village documents.
Moreover, Loyola offered an earlier cut-off time for the lights (shifting from 10:30 to 10 p.m.), committed to having at the least 4 off-duty cops present at each varsity football game played on Friday night in the course of the first season, and reduced the variety of nonfootball athletic contests from 25 to twenty.
In total, the approved plan grants Loyola the power to make use of the lights 54 nights per yr, which is fewer than the 60 nights the varsity proposed when the zoning board considered the request. Representatives from the varsity stated on the Village Board meeting that Loyola originally had targeted 183 nights of use when it first considered bringing the project forward late last yr.
Loyola’s updated plan, due to zoning board’s unfavorable suggestion, required a supermajority approval from trustees, meaning at the least five board members needed to forged their support for the project.
Trustees greenlighted the proposal in the course of the Nov. 14 meeting via a 6-1 vote. Board member Gina Kennedy was the dissenter, citing myriad concerns, akin to safety, traffic control, parking, enforcement of the proposed restrictions included within the plan, and the impact on the encircling neighborhood.
Wilmette Trustee Kathy Dodd discusses the Loyola lights proposal. Trustees Justin Sheperd, Stephen Leonard and Gerry Smith and Wilmette Village President Senta Plunkett all called the varsity’s request “reasonable” while explaining their support near the meeting’s conclusion. Leonard said he believed it was an “opportunity for compromise.” Trustee Kate Gjaja admitted she has “gone forwards and backwards” on Loyola’s proposal “quite a bit” and noted that she felt “it’s a really close call.” She added that she hopes Loyola is “hearing that the neighborhood is admittedly offended.” But Gjaja indicated a key reason for her support was the ways by which she believes Loyola helps Wilmette be a welcoming and inclusive community. After the board’s comments, Wilmette Village Manager Mike Braiman outlined a majority of the conditions that will likely be up for approval on the Dec. 12 agenda. The list from Braiman included, but isn’t limited to:
– No live shows or no third-party usage allowed; the lights are only for use for athletic events featuring Loyola Academy athletes.
– Wilmette’s police chief will determine public safety needs and staffing requirements. Loyola will likely be required to reimburse for all that staffing.
– Any public address system would must include a sound governor to limit noise levels.
– Loyola should annually submit a parking plan to the village prior to the beginning of the football season, identifying the distant parking lots and which games can have shuttle buses.
– Traffic plans ought to be reviewed as needed by Loyola staff and village staff.
– Violation provisions will likely be included within the ordinance. If Loyola violates any of the conditions of the ordinance, the varsity can be issued a considerable wonderful and the village manager has the power to amend or revoke the special use.
– The lights can have an auto shut-off feature
– Loyola will provide a community liaison who may very well be contacted on game days to deal with neighbors’ problems in real time.
Public comment: ‘If the door is opened … it’ll never be shut’
Twenty-eight locals spoke in the course of the public comment portion of the meeting, the vast majority of whom continued to precise their sharp opposition to Loyola’s plans.
Matthew Hirschfeld, who lives on Laramie Avenue, urged the board “to be on the side of public safety.” “Anyone who lives inside proximity of the varsity like myself knows how overwhelmed the intersection of Lake and Laramie may be on school days,” he said. “Now, imagine trying to duplicate that traffic at night when visibility is low with cars driving out and in of dark, crowded residential streets searching for parking.” Lisa Crowe told the board that nearby residents have “weathered many changes within the neighborhood but not all changes represent progress and fairness.” Crowe also echoed a most important concern of many commenters who spoke on the meeting, saying that Loyola will only return to the board in the long run to ask for increased light usage in the approaching years. “This campus is simply too small and too near our homes to support these increased activities,” she said, later adding that “if the door is opened to nighttime games and events, it’ll never be shut.”
Earlier within the meeting during Loyola’s presentation, Marty Jennings, the varsity’s advancement chief of staff, told the board that Loyola won’t return to ask for a rise to the proposal presented on Nov. 14 for at the least the following five years. Loyola Academy President Rev. Gregory J. Ostdiek also told the board that the varsity won’t return to request additional light usage for so long as he stays president.
Mary Gaspar, a resident of nearby Forest Avenue, argued that “no amount of sound and traffic experts and lawyers can sufficiently suppress the true lived experience of us neighbors.”
“That is our home,” she said. “Now we have young kids. Now we have elderly neighbors. We operate several businesses and work on weekends. People need their rest. We want peace and quiet. These are needs and never wants. A lighted, Friday night game is a want, especially while you…