Aspen to be in the dark over lighting ordinance |

Aspen to be in the dark over lighting ordinance

Jeremy Heiman

Are stray photons from your yard annoying your neighbors?

If so, you have exactly one month to correct the problem. All exterior lighting in the city must comply with the city of Aspen’s lighting ordinance by Nov. 23. Aspenites were given one year to bring their outdoor lighting into conformance with the ordinance, which became effective in November 1999.

All outdoor lighting fixtures which are illegal under the new ordinance must be replaced with conforming fixtures. Some lighting problems regulated by the legislation are fixtures that shine onto neighboring property, light up the sky or shine into the eyes of passersby.

“This gives the city teeth to enforce lighting problems,” said Julie Ann Woods, the city’s planning director. She said she knows there are still a lot of nonconforming lights around town, because she has been receiving telephone complaints.

Terry Paulson, a member of the City Council, observed that citizens are becoming more aware that too much light is a problem, and some have brought their outdoor lights into compliance before the end of the amnesty period. But there are some commercial lights around town, he said, that will need to be changed.

Paulson was one of the officials who called for a new ordinance, because, as he observed, it was getting harder to see the stars at night. But only a few Aspen businesses and residences were putting out too much light.

“There’s been a few glaring cases,” he said, pun intended, “where something needed to be done, and we really didn’t have anything to use.”

Paulson mentioned driveway lights that shine into town from Red Mountain and said, “If they were down-cast, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

The city of Aspen’s outdoor lighting code prohibits lights on top of roofs or under eaves, lights which illuminate the front of a house, blinking or flashing lights, illuminated signs, mercury vapor lights and lights directed upward. It prohibits lights more than 12 feet high and lights which illuminate the river or creeks.

The city’s ordinance also specifies a maximum wattage for landscape lighting and describes the type of fixtures permitted outdoors. The ordinance applies to both residential and commercial lighting.

Woods said enforcement of the ordinance will be done in response to complaints. Violations will be handled the same as any zoning violation: violators are notified and informed that they have 60 days to remedy the problem. If they still haven’t corrected the problem, it’s handled as a civil matter, she said.

“Conceivably, we could take somebody to court,” she said.

Aspen zoning officer Sarah Oates said after several warnings a continued violation can result in a $1,000 fine.

For more information on what’s legal and what’s not, check the city’s Web page, or call Sarah Oates at the city of Aspen Community Development Department, 920-5441.

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