You’ll be lighting up my life?

I was witness to our local government in action on Tuesday night. There was a public hearing to change/amend a zoning ordinance regarding lighting and sound systems for publicly used spaces. A request had been made to the town of Hudson by the Hudson Boosters to build a four field baseball complex, complete with parking, real dugouts, a concession stand and storage areas, to be located just north of the Trinity Family Center on Badlands Rd. and Hwy 12.  Sounds great, I mean we all just enjoyed a great 4th of July weekend sponsored by the Hudson Boosters, so who wouldn’t be loving anything Booster right now?

The Boosters appear to be able to build a new complex ONLY if they are allowed to have lights and a sound system. That does not sound like an unreasonable request, with a reported 1200+ kids in the Hudson Booster program; it takes time to get all those games played. To be fair the Boosters only want lights/sound in one of four fields. They have yet to raise the needed funds and work through a few other issues, but have a solid plan. The kink in the proverbial colon is in the zoning ordinance of the town of Hudson. According to the Zoning rules of the town of Hudson, outdoor entertainment/sports complexes must comply with a rather lengthy list of restrictions. These restrictions were voted in and authorized by earlier Planning and Zoning Committees and Town Boards of Hudson in response to previous building requests and residents input. The zoning for these types of complexes was put in place to minimize the impact of traffic, lighting and noise for neighboring residents because most new facilities like this would be on or next to ag/residential areas.

The representatives for the Boosters gave a compelling argument for allowing them to have lighting and sound at a new ball field. Several members of the town board gave very compelling reasons as to why the zoning rules should NOT be changed. Other board members argued equally as loud as to why the rules SHOULD be changed. The room was as electric as the thunder storm passing by outside.

There was a passionate presentation by Don Jordan, a former town chairman and home owner who lives directly across from the Field of Dreams soccer complex. He explained the process that the soccer group went through to be able to build there. Don presented the board with about 150 signatures on a petition from neighbors asking the board to not allow the zoning changes. The soccer fields seem to be working fine without lights and sound and most neighbors now appear to be accepting of their presence.

There was discussion about candle watts, mercury vs. vapor vs. new technology in lighting and the angle the lights can be pointed, glow vs. glare, the bright lights from Grandview Ball Park and the new and improved lighting at the Middle school ball field. Also brought up was the light pollution that many town residents moved here to get away from, and therein is the crux of the problem. Move here from the city to get away from it all, but want it all here with you. Its like paddling a boat with one oar.

I felt everyone at the meeting agreed that additional Booster ball fields are a much needed item, a true asset to the community and almost everyone there agreed that the Boosters are a fine group and the location is about as good as it gets. They would be welcome with open arms—–as long as they follow the current zoning ordinances. Ordinances that have staved off unwelcome businesses and have kept our township as a relatively rural community allowing the controlled growth that makes the town of Hudson a welcome place to call home.

The (relatively new) zoning committee voted at their meeting last month to throw out years of zoning rules to now eliminate the restrictions to allow lights and sound at sport facilities. Thus, paving the way for the town board to approve allowing 80 foot light poles and sound systems to be part of a new ball field or for other businesses coming to town or already established facilities.

The special public hearing was closed and the regular town board meeting was called to order. The 4 supervisors, Kernon Bast, Dave Ostby, Ken Kolbe and Tim Foster  plus chairman Jeff Johnson voted on the zoning ordinance change. Ironically, one member of the board was just honored as the Grand Marshall of the Booster parade. The newly eliminated zoning changes passed by a 3-2 vote. As former town clerk and chairwoman Rita Horne commented at the hearing, -be careful what you wish for-. I think this has opened the door for any number of new zoning changes, not all good.

And that is government in action. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get ?