by Chris Russell
The Will County Planning and Zoning Commission has tabled a decision regarding lighting at The Palos Sportsman’s Club, on Harlem Avenue, in Green Garden Township.
The club is a private hunting and shooting club.
The club is appealing an administrative decision by Will County Land Use relating to light pole heights exceeding a maximum of 25 feet and shielding to prevent light and glare from encroaching upon neighboring properties.
The club was found in violation late last year for constructing outdoor shooting platforms, installing outdoor lighting, and adding additional gravel to the existing parking lot without obtaining permits.
The club subsequently applied for and was issued a permit for the outdoor shooting platforms. The club applied for site development permit in October 2017 for the parking lot improvements.
However, the Will County Land Use Department Engineering Division has not yet received the required submittals to review and issue the permit.
For the outdoor lighting, the club applied for a permit in September 2017. The Will County Land Use Department Planning and Zoning Division’s review of that lighting permit is being appealed.
The Land Use Department determined that the light poles exceed the 25-foot maximum building height for accessory buildings.
The Land Use Department determined that the light sources do not satisfy the provision “all light sources must be shielded to prevent light and glare spillover to adjacent property and abutting rights-of-way.”
They say that while the light sources are shielded, they are not angled appropriately as to prevent light and glare spillover to adjacent property owners. The ordinance provides examples of shielded light fixtures, all of which are casting the light downward, not outward like the applicant is proposing.
However, the club believes that the light poles are not subject to the ordinance as it relates to accessory buildings and the light sources are properly shielded.
The appeal falls under the jurisdiction of the Planning and Zoning Commission, where the club is requesting approval of the outdoor lighting.
The club’s light poles measure twenty-five feet. They are built on a concrete footing with the light source on top of the pole, exceeding the twenty-five-foot height restriction.
Diagrams of properly shielded lighting sources were displayed. The light sources show light being cast downward instead of outward. So, it was the determination of the Land Use Department that the lights were not properly shielded and were creating light glare spillover to adjacent properties.
One of the Palos Gun Club directors, Robert Buhs, stated they have the site plan for the gravel in and paid all the fees.
He said, in 1987, they bought the property in Frankfort and moved the club from Palos. The original clubhouse showed field lights on the print stamped by the Will County Building Department. However, they never obtained permits.
The club was receiving complaints about the glare and light spillover. So, they lowered the lights. Buhs stated that the closest house to the west is about a quarter-mile. However, neighbors contest that the entire facility is lit sending glare all directions.
Buhs said the poles are twenty-five feet on six inches of concrete.
Patrick Ruberry, an attorney and club member, pointed out that the section of the ordinance they are referring to was amended in January, and it expressly exempts agricultural area. So, the section he is referring to regarding light shields no longer applies to agricultural districts. He stated they want to position their equipment so that they are minimizing glare and spillover.
Ruberry said they have been a good neighbor. He believes they are within their rights to have the lights and to use them in the manner they are using them now.
John Vincent, who lives west of the sportsman’s club, said he was there on behalf of 131 residents that signed a petition because the Palos Sportsman’s Club lights are very intense and glaring to the residents. H
e said it impacts their quality of life immensely.
Planning and Zoning Chairman Vallone asked Vincent if there was a problem before the expansion on the south end of their property?
Vincent stated the pictures he presented to the commission were five of nine lights lit.
Don Murday, attorney and Green Garden Township Planning Chair, stated if the club “wanted to be good neighbors they would have come to Will County before they raised this. They should have come to Green Garden Township and said this is what we want to do. They never did that. They went ahead and built it, and when they were caught, they asked for forgiveness. They didn’t ask for permission.”
Murday said, “this is not about guns or gun usage but about respect for the process and respect for the residents.” He stated there is no respect for the process or the residents.
Murday started to get calls and complaints in September when the lights went live.
Murday said he lives a mile and a half away in Erinwood Subdivision and he sees the glare.
Chairman Vallone asked Murday if the club makes adjustments to be in compliance with the county’s lighting regulations can the township can live with it? Vallone said if not, they are going to have to figure out what they’re going to do with it.
Murday replied that he can’t speak on behalf of the township but if the club is in compliance and residents are still upset then they will look at the options they have for relief.
Kim Mitchell said what about the noise? The shooting at night? Murday said absolutely there’s noise.
Green Garden resident Glen Clarke said the 131 objectors represent seventy homesteads. Clarke objected to the lights, the glare, noise, decrease in property values and overall lack of his enjoyment of his property.
Jim Nolan, Green Garden Township Supervisor, said they said they received 132 signatures and he received 132 phone calls.
Nolan said going down Stuenkel Road the glare from these lights in driver’s eyes causes a safety hazard. He said they shouldn’t be allowed to continue.
If the Planning and Zoning Commission denies the appeal, the club would need to apply for a variance for pole height, bring the lighting source into compliance or remove them altogether.
The Planning and Zoning Commission tabled the issue until the June 19th meeting.