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New lighting technology prompts ordinance review

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Town staffers are hard at work revising and updating Carbondale’s exterior lighting ordinance, with plans to unveil the draft of a proposed new law at a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission at on Nov. 12.

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The changes come at the direction of the town’s Board of Trustees, who have expressed concern that the current lighting ordinance is out of date and difficult to enforce, at least partly because new lighting technology has changed the way lights on one building or facility can affect the neighbors of that facility or infringe on enjoyment of the star-filled night skies above town.

In particular, said Trustee Katrina Byars, town officials have concerns about a sign along Highway 133, in front of the former Roaring Fork Physicians building that now houses a church and preschool, which some believe is overly bright at night.

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Referring to the LED lighting technology, Trustee Frosty Merriott declared, “I think they’re really obnoxious, quite frankly, and distractions to drivers. We need to get that figured out. We don’t need five or 10 or 20 of these in Carbondale. And we don’t have anything that really addresses that kind of lighting right now.”

The revision process is being overseen by town planner John Leybourne, who sent a copy of the draft revisions to The Sopris Sun on Tuesday with the proviso: “At this point it is not public, as there are going to be changes before it goes to the P&Z (the planning and zoning commission).”

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In general, the revisions are intended to keep town ordinances in step with “new technologies in lighting (that) have resulted in higher-efficacy light sources (lumens per watt),” according to the draft.

And while the ordinance, as it stands now, means to encourage the use of newer, higher-efficiency lighting technology in town, it also is intended to “recognize that control of glare, light trespass and (light) pollution, and reduction of energy consumption are critical” to citizens’ enjoyment of the night sky as well as to the town’s commitment to environmental activism and energy conservation.

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In its current form, the ordinance would set up lighting “zones,” with restrictions meant to prevent exterior lighting from adversely affecting the natural environment, neighbors and other inadvertent results that might cause unwanted disturbances.

One section of the draft ordinance deals with the phenomenon of motion-detectors that turn on outside lights, often as a security measure, that can in some circumstances cause annoyance to neighbors or project an unwanted amount of light into the night sky.

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The draft ordinance also offers an “on-site review” by town staff to determine if the lighting outside a particular home, business, school or other facility is in compliance with the town’s lighting law.

Evidence of the difficulty the planning staff faces, as they try to evaluate and rewrite the 22-page existing ordinance, is at the bottom of the final page.

Following four pages worth of definitions, explaining some of the more obscure terminology contained in the draft document is a line of text in blue that states, “The definitions were pretty weak, so I started over.”

The P&Z public hearing on the draft ordinance is scheduled to be held at Town Hall, 511 Colorado Ave., Carbondale, CO at 7 p.m. on Nov. 12.

Copies of the proposed ordinance are to be on file and open to public review in the Planning Department office at Town Hall.

Published in The Sopris Sun on October 29, 2015.

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