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Help me understand what this discription means,

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#1 DeanS

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 09:47 AM

Hi All,

I have requested a meeting with my local zoning director about some lights that are not to code according to how I understand our regulations. I was at the meetings when this was adopted in 2005, and asked some of my opinions. At the time is sounded pretty good, but it never has been tested that I know of, other than my earlier battle with another neighbor. The electric company still puts up non shielded lights to this day.

A new neighbor has had a dusk to dawn light installed, no shields, that casts a shadow on my obervatory even though it is several hundred yards away. It is down hill and probably eye level so I am thinking I should not even see the bulb if it is shielded?

This ordinance was adopter December 2005.

F.) Outdoor Lighting: All Development Plans, Major Subdivision Plats and non-residential site plans submitted for review, consideration and approval by the Planning Commission shall submit a Lighting Plan as required by Article V(1)©(III)(5), Community Services Impact Statement, Lighting, of zoning ordinance, and Articles 2.201(f) and 3.304(III)(O) of the Subdivision Regulations for the Jessamine County-City of Wilmore Joint Planning Commission. The intent is to eliminate glare, minimize light trespass beyond the property proposed to be developed, and eliminate hazards associated with light shining onto roads that may cause tempoary blindness of motorists.

No Lighting shall be permitted which would glare onto any street, into any adjacent property, or deemed as light trespass. Full-cutoff lighting fixtures shall be required for parking lot lighting. Wall-packs and floodlights shall either be full-cutoff design or have shields such that they do not put any light above the horizon and shall be mounted to not glare on any roadways and neighboring properties. Typical pole mounted "dust to dawn" security lights shall use reflecting skycaps instead of clear plastic refractors.

End.

My main issue here is the last 2 sentences, does it mean a hubble skycap? It says no plastic refractor so is this the globe?

Thanks for any opinions,
Dean

#2 magic612

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 11:43 AM

Well, the way I read that, you have a couple things in your favor:

1. "No Lighting shall be permitted ...deemed as light trespass." If the lighting fixture is on their property but light from it is directly casting shadows on yours, to me, that's light trespass. SO, it is important to see if the ordinance actually defines light trespass. If not, research a LOT of ordinances and other definitions of light trespass so you have some arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

2. "Typical pole mounted "dust to dawn" security lights shall use reflecting skycaps" The way I read this, you have some good ammo, but the wording is problematic. What is a "typical" pole mounted security light? They may argue non-typical, but I think that's a weak argument, given the overall intent that the ordinance seems to indicate. And a skycap is, I believe, referring to an opaque reflector that aims the light down, and eliminates sideways/upwards light.

That's my take on it.

#3 Jwemes

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 12:31 PM

Hi Dean,
You've actually included several issues in you post. Generally, utility companies seem to be exempted from lighting regulations generated by communities. In addition, often, local communities will exempt their own facilities from the lighting ordinances.

As far as the portion of your local code which you referred to, you may wish to look for a definition in the local code to clarify what the intent was with "Clear, Plastic Refractor". In my community, the Town's streetlights use a clear polycarbonate lens which acts as a refractor to diffuse the point lighting of the lamp.

The bottom line looks like you are on solid ground. If the light fixture was installed after the ordinance was enacted, and generates light trespass, you should be entitled to relief. As I am sure you are aware, the person-to-person steps required to get that relief are sometimes the most difficult.

Assuming that your code enforcement officer agrees with your position, don't be surprised if the officer asks whether you have already spoken with your neighbor. Code enforcement officers would like to see neighbors resolving these issues without local government intervention. However, when you talk to your neighbor, don't be afriad to mention that you have spoken with Code Enforcement. DO TRY to maintain a calm, rational approach. (I'm sure that you will-just a reminder)

As an aside, when we were conducting public hearings for our proposed ordinance, one resident said that he wanted more lighting on his street, rather than less, because his street was already too dark. He clearly had NO understanding of what we were trying to achieve, and seemed either incapable, or unwilling to listen to our position that lighting shining into the sky was our focus.

Clear, Dark, and Steady,
John W

#4 TOM O

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 12:59 PM

I am a bit mystified as to how "light trespass" is assessed in your lighting code. For us in San Bernardino County, The "yard stick test" is what code enforcement use and understand.
If a yardstick casts a visible shadow on the complaining property, on a dark moonless night, it is considered light trespass. Simple but the code guys understand the test.
The loopholes related to "architectural lighting" or grandfathered light all seem to slide by. In your situation is seems like the trespass test is what needs to be defined, and what loophole the guy stands behind?
Good luck..... Just my two cents..
Tom

#5 DeanS

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 02:09 PM

Hi Dean,
You've actually included several issues in you post. Generally, utility companies seem to be exempted from lighting regulations generated by communities.


That would certainly be an easy out for them, and since they are half the problem it would really hurt the overall effectiveness of the ordinance.

This is a new neighbor, just finished building and moved in the other day it looks like. I do not want to get off on the wrong foot since their house is actually closer to me than the pole light. They could light up the entire house and really screw with me. I hope they don't but I do not want to give them any reason to at this point. That is my reason for asking the local board to tell me how they interpet the discription. So is it better to "nip it in the bud" before they get carried away with lights, or just wait and see?

I have talked to the head of the County Zoning office since the first post. He is a younger guy so I really think this is good, at least compared to dealing with someone that has been there a long time. He said he will read over the section on lighting and get more familar with it before making any comments.

I sent him some links to examples of how shields and cut-off fixtures are designed to work, and also to darksky.org. He does agree that it sounds like these pole lights should be fully shielded. John, this is where he did say the utility company's are exempt from certain things too, but did not think it in this case. Again he wanted more time to study this.

So over all he listened and genuinely sounded interested.

In my email I told him that when I moved here 20 years ago it was because of the dark skies, and more laid back rural atmosphere of this county. And how in just the last few years it has changed remarkably fast, and if we let it keep going we will soon look like any other suburb of a big city.

So I will contact him back next week if I don't hear anything before then.

Thanks for the comments.
Dean

#6 DeanS

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 02:14 PM

Tom,

It appears our ordinance does not have a way to determine in a cut and dry manor. The yardstick rule might work, I'll give it a try tonight although it will be hard to tell in a snow storm :)

A light would have to be fairly bright to give a shadow of a yard stick? I saw my shadow easily not sure if a 2" wide stick would show much of one.

More good things to ask the department.

Thanks

#7 Jwemes

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 02:59 PM

As far as the neighbor and whether he gets into a snit and installs more lighting, if he's in violation with one light, he's still in violation with additional lights. When you talk with him, you might ask if he's considered motion sensors on his lights. We exempted from trespass, lights on motion sensors which would only be activated for 5 minutes.

We found that the two most effective arguements were operating costs and safety. Most people don't care that you're an astronomer and see well in the dark.

To address Tom's question, our code uses direct illumination from the lamp as the test for trespass. Most people in violation need the details explained repeatedly in order to understand that "seeing that the light fixture is illuminated" does not constitute trespass. Glare from the filament or the lamp itself is trespass.

#8 amicus sidera

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 08:29 PM

If you make a reasoned case to the zoning director, I would not be surprised to see you post within one week's time, perhaps two, that the light in question is fully shielded.

That is a fairly well-written lighting ordinance, in my opinion... the parts that seem slightly unclear are necessary to allow some degree of flexibility and discretion on the part of the authorities in responding to situations such as you find yourself in.

#9 teast

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 10:30 PM

Dean,

Although I am not a planning/zoning official, I happen to work at a planning commission (in Kentucky, no less) and I can tell you that from what I've picked up over the years in discussions and at meetings, my first reaction is that the ordinance in question may not apply in your situation because it appears to be written to deal with new developments and new subdivision plans, and not existing developments or residential developments already in place.

Now let me again emphasize that I'm not a zoning official but I can run the wording by some professionals where I work for their opinion. However, I'm fairly certain that the code doesn't apply in your situation.

-Tom

#10 DeanS

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 10:59 PM

So Tom, you don't think that this addresses all light trespass situations? That would sure change things as I was told this would address everything from developments to single pole lights.

I sure hope my local guy does not see it that way.

Thanks for the comment, even though I don't like it ;)

Dean

#11 TOM O

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 05:29 AM

Hi Dean, I'm just telling you the simple method the current code enforcement guys use in my neighborhood. It was established in the existing light ordinance. I would not say it is the best or preferable way to deal with the issue, but for those big light bombs in your neighbors yard, it seemed to give code enforcement the tool they easily implemented. In the new code, lumen measurement and the like brought in the confusing issue of calibration and subjective assessments that are still being sorted out. In setting up the new ordinance we are drafting, IDA models and more than a dozen comparative codes are being sifted by the team doing the preliminary draft. It is almost finished. The measuring equipment to quantify actual trespass and references as to how others are using them, lighting based on zones in developed areas vs. rural and many other considerations are on the table. It is truly immense when people fight dark sky issues and "proof" is in front of a judge. We will see how it all sorts out. I agree with you, Dean. I often wish everyone was an amateur astronomer. We'd all get along.
Tom

#12 yashi

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 06:53 AM

Ever considered to just invite the NEW neighbor to your house/ observatory and just talk with him about it X:

#13 teast

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 07:23 AM

I'm thinking that it may apply only to new developments/subdivisions for which plans are submitted for approval. Again, although I work at a planning commission, I'm not a planner or zoning official. I'll show the text to some folks who do this all day long and try to get their opinion and let you know.

-Tom

#14 Jwemes

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 07:54 AM

I respectfully disagree that the new neighbor is exempted from the requirements of section "F.) outdoor lighting". The first paragraph specifies that development plans, major plats, and non-residentials which are to undergo review and approval by the planning commission must include lighting plans.
The second paragraph (unless superceded by some other section of the code) is the paragraph we are concerned with, and therein is the blanket restriction on light trespass. The title of section "F" does not restrict to those projects undergoing review.

On Edit: While I have no reason to believe that Dean has not transcribed the pertinent section of code accurately, a review of the entire code might shine a brighter light on the "native construction" of this code. All administrative groups draft ordinances in which the approved language reflects the organization skills of the officials drafting those ordinances. ( I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, as a member of the P&Z commission locally)

#15 DeanS

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 11:29 AM

I am searching for this online, don't think our county website is complete yet as I don't see this.

This ordinance is under section
3.21 All Zones;
3.210 Development
Regulations;
F.

So it does look like it may only apply to developments and subdivisions. This really irks me that I did not catch this when it was drawn up and approved. Hope it somehow will apply across the board.

Will keep you posted what I find out.

Thanks

#16 Steve F

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 12:09 PM

If there is any way to approach this in a manner that encourages the property owner not to become defensive try that first. I would take a good look at his light and do a little research for him before you bring the matter up. Find out what type of shield he could install to alleviate the situation and offer the information as a simple solution to resolve the problem.

Go talk to him with the zoning director or his representative and try to make him aware of the ordinance (he almost certainly has no idea the ordinance is on the books) and help him with the solution.

Two out of three people probably will automatically become defensive but if you can manage the situation in such a way that he becomes the one out of three that is friendly and cooperative you have scored a double win.

If you pull this off your zoning board will view you as a reasonable kind of guy and will not hate to see you come back if you should need to in the future.

#17 FirstSight

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 11:42 AM

In approaching the new neighbor, it will help by starting out by allowing that you do not object to his having the light for his security, but that you only wish to control the glare in your direction with some shielding you'll be glad to pay for, and jointly plan with him so it's implemented in a manner that still attractively takes care of his needs. If he then raises the problem that because the new light is on the opposite side of his house from you, shielding it in your direction will negate its coverage of a huge portion of his yard, you may have to up the (positive) ante and offer to pay for installation of a second (properly shielded/directed) light to cover that. If he hesitates because that would put too much light on the back side of his house (i.e. where his bedroom is)...well, you know how to hit that softball out of the park.

It's likely he doesn't want to start out on the wrong foot with any existing neighbors (such as yourself) either. I would only bring out the zoning ordinance issue if you get the vibe that he's stubbornly balking at any willingness to be mutually accommodating about the issue, because as you unfortunately know from experience with another neighbor, some people are simply horse's arses and have to be corralled by whatever lawful force is at your disposal. But a majority of people are reasonable and will want to meet you at least halfway, so long as you don't put them through undue hassle.

#18 DeanS

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 03:33 PM

I am going to give our zoning guy the week to think about this, or not, before I call him back.

I have been looking at the placement of this new light, and since it is sort of low, I think I will put up a blocking panel in the mean time. I can come up from my fence, then brace it off another building. Too bad this light was not over another 50 yards or so as the building would have blocked it from view.

But if we do not start geting some clear nights soon, who cares??? What a terrible winter for astronomy this year. Little snow, but a lot of clouds and rain.

As for talking with the nieghbors directly, I want to wait until the weather gets better, and perhaps invite them over for a view. I have a nice pond and if they have kids it might not be that long before the want to talk to me too.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions.






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