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Carbondale trustees OK new lighting ordinance

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Carbondale’s board of trustees on Jan. 13 passed revisions to the town’s outdoor lighting regulations in an effort to rein in a growing use of light-emitting diodes (L.E.D.) devices that tend to radiate considerably more “offensive” illumination than other, historically dominant lighting technologies.

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The ordinance that was passed last week refers to “certain types of modern lighted signs, including those that use L.E.D. Technology, (that) can be inconsistent with the Town’s goal of reducing glare and offensive light sources.”

The trustees had been discussing the town’s lighting ordinance for months, in response to concerns that L.E.D. lighting displays were adding to the level of light pollution around Carbondale. The discussions specifically mentioned a new sign at the Faith Lutheran Church on Highway 133, in the building that once housed the Roaring Fork Family Physicians clinic.

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But town planner John Leybourne, who drafted the lighting-code revision passed by the trustees, said on Jan. 19 that the Faith Lutheran sign may or may not be affected by the revision.

He said that the current sign code contains a provision that requires that all signs in town comply with the code as it is written within five years of its adoption, regardless of whether a particular sign was erected previous to the code’s passage into law.

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But that provision may change, Leybourne said, as part of the ongoing rewrite of the town’s overall development review codes, known as the Unified Development Code process.

As approved by the trustees, the revisions to the lighting code strictly address the issue of L.E.D. lighting, although Leybourne wrote in a memo to the trustees that he had drawn up a more comprehensive rewrite of the lighting code because the old one “was found to be outdated and did not address current technologies” beyond the L.E.D. issues.

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Those more extensive revisions may come before the board of trustees at a work session later this year, according to Leybourne’s memo.

As revised, the lighting code now prohibits signs with internal lighting sources that emit “excessive glare, color changing light sources, and visible lamps oriented toward the roadways,” as well as “animated” signs or “signs with visible (unshielded) light sources.”

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The code also now requires that “all lighted signs shall be reduced by 50 percent or more at the close of business of service or by 9 p.m., whichever is later,” except in the historic commercial core, where lighted signs “may remain fully illuminated until close of business or midnight, whichever is later, at which time lighting shall be reduced by 50 percent or lower.”

The revisions to the lighting code were to be effective as soon as they are posted and published, in keeping with Carbondale’s Home Rule Charter.

Published in The Sopris Sun on January 21, 2016.

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