Bright ideas for exterior lighting ordinance
As I See ItBy Hal SundinGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
It has been six years since the Glenwood Springs City Council enacted an ordinance establishing exterior lighting standards, whose purposes were to minimize “light trespass” and to eliminate glaring light sources; to reduce night light intensity throughout Glenwood Springs in order to enhance the city’s nighttime character and the visibility of stars against a dark sky; and to conserve energy. The example of other cities such as Tucson, Ariz., shows how effective such a program can be.Although the city has required all new construction to comply with the ordinance, pre-existing lighting excesses have been ignored. Council has hidden behind the excuses of a lawsuit in Aurora, challenging the legality of enforcing lighting regulations retroactively, and of a reluctance to take on the role of light police or the cost of enforcement, neither of which is valid. At least two years ago, the city attorney advised council that the city could legally require compliance of existing light sources with the terms of the ordinance, which stipulates that all existing businesses must return a survey form which the city was obligated to issue, to determine what modifications to existing outdoor lighting would be needed for compliance, and that such lighting be brought into compliance within one year. To date, none of this has taken place. An example of non-conforming business lighting is the glare of the canopy lighting at the Conoco Station at Sixth and Laurel, which could easily be corrected by simple shielding.
Glenwood springs enforces a number of nuisance ordinances – why not this one? Should the city have the right to ignore its own ordinances at will? We citizens certainly don’t have that right.Existing non-compliant residential lighting is another issue. Understandably, enforcement would be an expensive and unpopular task. But there is a reasonable alternative that is both moderate and inexpensive, and that is to educate the public and ask for its cooperation. Unless people are aware of the terms of the ordinance relating to non-compliant offensive lighting and appropriate and simple corrective measures, the ordinance is meaningless to them.Most residents of Glenwood Springs want to be good neighbors, and would willingly remedy any non-compliant lighting if they were informed about the requirements of the ordinance and the simple and inexpensive measures they could take to correct any nuisance lighting conditions, such as lighting that lights up or glares onto a neighbor’s property, or is kept on all night. The most effective way for the city to inform the public would be to mail a folder to all electrical customers, explaining the ordinance requirements and suggesting simple corrective measures, such as aiming light fixtures downward, shielding to prevent light trespass, using frosted bulbs and fixtures and lower wattage bulbs, and using motion-detection lighting instead of dusk-to-dawn lighting.
Many residents use all-night lighting because they think it will discourage intruders, but this has not been proven to be correct. Some turn on all-night lighting only at times when they are going to be away from home, which is a dead giveaway that the house is unoccupied. Motion-detection lighting is far more effective than all-night lighting because it lets a potential intruder know that his presence has been noticed. It has the added advantages of saving $100 a year or more per home on electricity bills and conserving energy – something that should be encouraged by our city, which has committed itself to an energy conservation goal.The Glenwood Springs City Council needs to become involved in correcting nuisance outdoor lighting conditions and reducing the unnecessary use of power for lighting by initiating a public education program encouraging the public’s cooperation in achieving those objectives.Hal Sundin’s column appears every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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