Wednesday, December 5, 2007

City may amend Dark Sky Ordinance

Ketchum?s Fourth Street project breaks its own lighting code

Express Staff Writer

New public lights on Fourth Street are too bright, and the city of Ketchum is considering modifications to its innovative Dark Sky Ordinance to correct the problem. Photo by Mountain Express

Ketchum was the first city in the state of Idaho to adopt regulations to preserve the integrity of the night sky, but city officials are considering amending the city's Dark Sky Ordinance to provide for more leniency along the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor.

"It's not like we're tossing out the ordinance. We just need to amend the ordinance for a particular pedestrian mall," said Ketchum Community Development Corporation Town Design Team leader Dale Bates.

The street lights along the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor include 150-watt bulbs, and do not include full cutoff lenses, which are designed to fully prevent lateral glare. Also, four lighted posts at a crosswalk in front of Atkinsons' Market are far too bright.

"So, we're looking at having to make some changes to the Dark Sky Ordinance," Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall said.

The dark sky ordinance, adopted June 30, 1999, after six months of city hearings, was designed to protect city residents and visitors from glare and excessive lighting, while providing nighttime safety.

It requires outdoor lights to be shielded and holds lights to a 25-foot height limit, as well as limitations on the wattage of bulbs. Architect-inspired landscape and skyward lighting are prohibited. If Ketchum businesses or property owners are found to be in violation of the dark sky ordinance, a warning can be issued. If, after 30 days, property owners do not comply, they can be fined $100.

Bates said, however, that the Dark Sky Ordinance didn't anticipate a pedestrian corridor in which more lateral lighting is needed for safety reasons.

Sun Valley resident Dr. Stephen Pauley, a retired physician and amateur astronomer, was the driving force behind Ketchum's Dark Sky Ordinance.

"The lights don't meet the ordinance, and they want to be able to have events on the street and so-on, and they wanted to have more light," Pauley said. "The only way to do that would be to maybe have an exemption to the ordinance."

Pauley said he's not thrilled with the prospect of breaching the innovative Dark Sky Ordinance.

"If people aren't happy with the amount of light on the sidewalks, go ahead and put more light in, but it ought to be the right kind of light," he said. "That's what they were supposed to do."

Pauley concluded by saying he hopes that, if exemptions are to be made for Fourth Street, he hopes they won't be granted all around down.

"It would defeat the entire purpose of the ordinance," he said. "I think we're in a situation where we might have to compromise."

As for the lighted posts in front of Atkinsons', Bates recommended turning them off.

"We don't need them," he said.

But Councilman Baird Gourlay said the posts were in a location where streetlights should have been installed, and the light is needed for pedestrian safety. As for the remainder of the 18 to 21 lights, Bates said they could be brought mostly into compliance at a cost of $60 per fixture.

Gourlay asked for that to happen by Christmas.

"Right now I want to see that thing lit, and it's not lit, and we're trying to put our best foot forward for Christmas," he said.

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