Post Independent Opinion
And on the eighth day, Glenwood Springs said, “Let there be less light.”Years later, some city residents are still waiting for that edict to have the intended effect.When Glenwood Springs started to crack down on light pollution, it had some notable effects. One of the biggest was at the recently opened Glenwood Meadows. While the development has stirred complaints over certain initial violations of light-pollution rules, it also stands as an example of how simple measures can vastly reduce the amount of light associated with even a massive development.The city’s light-pollution crackdown has done much to reduce unnecessary illumination associated with new construction, and with new lighting at existing businesses. But what can only be called glaring problems with previous lighting have gone unaddressed. As a result, the city isn’t reducing total lighting in town, but only cutting down on the increase in lighting as growth continues.That’s not what lovers of dark skies and star-studded nights had hoped when they helped draft the city’s light-pollution ordinance.Even at the time, however, the committee that proposed the ordinance recognized the special challenge that dealing with longstanding lighting problems would present.The city eventually decided that existing businesses should submit light mitigation plans. But the city later held off on pursuing retroactive enforcement of its lighting ordinance because of legal challenges of similar ordinances in other communities.City attorney Karl Hanlon has more recently decided the city is on solid legal footing in pursing retroactive enforcement. But now the problem is that the city’s budget is too tight for it to be able to afford the staffing to pursue enforcement.Meanwhile, so many of the same lighting problems identified years ago at certain properties continue today.But the problem may be a lack of education as much as a lack of enforcement. Many problems can be solved through such simple means as pointing lights downward, installing shields to reduce glare from the sides, painting bulbs or replacing clear glass with frosted glass.The solution also can involve a mere matter of asking.Contacted recently for an interview, gas station owner Dick Gilstrap, who also served on the lighting committee, said he would consider shielding the lights at his Sixth Street Conoco location, but also pointed out that “nobody’s ever said anything to me.” True Value agreed to adjust its parking lot lights when asked by a committee member.Hal Sundin, who also was a committee member, thinks something as simple as putting a notice in city electric bills could go far to educate people about the lighting ordinance, and to encourage them to do their part to comply. This also could help deal with problems in residential areas, which are included in the ordinance.The city may not have the resources to police the lighting ordinance. But that may be too heavy-handed an approach at this point, anyway. It wouldn’t cost very much just to ask. And the response might be illuminating – or better yet, not.
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