‘Extensive update’ planned for outdoor lighting code

Stargazers at Dead Horse Point State Park admire the Milky Way and point out constellations.
Photo courtesy Bettymaya Foot

Community members were invited to ask questions, offer suggestions and learn about a proposed lighting ordinance that is part of Grand County’s dark skies initiative. The open house was held Feb. 20 at the Grand Center.

Community and Economic Development Director Zacharia Levine shared a draft of the outdoor lighting ordinance the Grand County Planning commission recommended for approval. He said the ordinance would bring an “extensive update” to the county code. The city and county are collaborating on the dark skies initiative, Levine said, but the city will need to formulate its own ordinance.

The draft ordinance provides updated standards for sign illumination, encourages outdoor lighting practices that limit light pollution, sets requirements for how lights are shielded, and implements limits on total light output and lighting hours. Levine noted that the ordinance includes a five-year amnesty period for non-compliant lighting.

Crystal White of the Moab Dark Skies Group helped organize the open house and provided posters with a significant amount of information about the impacts of artificial lighting. The posters addressed topics ranging from how artificial light disrupts sleep cycles and negatively affects human health to the various ways it harms wildlife. The posters also tackled the economic costs of inefficient lighting as well as the aesthetic benefits of responsible lighting that could be enjoyed by locals, while also increasing Moab’s astrotourism appeal.

White said the dark skies initiative has garnered strong local support thus far. She added that other cities all over the world have provided examples of measures that can be taken to deal with light pollution, noting that one city in Italy has been particularly supportive. A university professor who specializes in lighting design and lighting engineers has also been involved in the process, said White.

Explaining the idea behind the ordinance, White said the hope is the city and county will “set an example” for businesses and homeowners to be more responsible when it comes to lighting. She added the Dark Skies Group would be “happy to do assessments” if people want to learn how they could improve their lighting efficiency.

Kelly Weight-Allred and Debra Dull of Rocky Mountain Power attended the open house to show the company’s support for Moab’s dark sky efforts. They said the utility’s engineering group recently approved lighting fixtures with a low enough correlated color temperature to be dark sky friendly. Personnel met with the Moab community about a year ago to start the process, they said, noting how progress has been made relatively quickly. They emphasized the importance of the partnership with Moab to Rocky Mountain Power and said they look forward to continuing to work with the city and county on the initiative.

The open house was meant to drum up support for the proposed lighting ordinance, Levine said. He noted that there have been some public comments made in support and not many others. A public hearing for the ordinance where people can express support or concerns to the Grand County Council is tentatively scheduled for March 19, said Levine.