City taking dim view of excessive lighting |

City taking dim view of excessive lighting

John Colson

Aspen may be getting close to finalizing a set of new laws intended to reduce the “light pollution” emitted from residential and commercial sources in town.This week, the city Planning and Zoning Commission directed planner Mitch Haas to put together a proposed set of exterior lighting regulations based on the rules being used by the town of Basalt.Haas, who has been working on the issue for the past two years, said he hopes to present the P&Z with a proposal “some time in June.” Between now and then, he said, he plans to draw up a proposed set of regulations based on Basalt’s existing lighting code, and on recommendations from the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) “Lighting Handbook.”Aspenites have long grumbled about the growing amount of light sent skyward by homes and businesses in the upper Roaring Fork Valley. This “light pollution,” longtime locals say, has all but obliterated what once was a glorious night skyscape of innumerable stars and a distinct Milky Way.These days, old-timers complain, to an observer anywhere in or around Aspen, only the brightest stars shine through the haze of light radiated by the metro area.Haas recently presented P&Z members with a sampling of regulations drawn from the code books of various jurisdictions, ranging from local towns and counties to such distant regions as the town of Telluride and Douglas County in Colorado, and the state of Vermont.Although a lack of a quorum at this week’s city P&Z meeting prevented any formal decisions, Haas said he was directed to draw up a proposal based on Basalt’s regulations. These require the submission of outdoor lighting plans with land-use applications and building permit applications. Plans must include location and height of fixtures, type of illumination, intensity and other information.Prohibited lighting types under the Basalt code include certain kinds of rooftop lights; flood illumination from ground- or pole-mounted lights; and all “lights which flash, move, revolve, scintillate, blink, flicker, vary in intensity, change color or use intermittent electrical pulsation,” among other types.Exemptions to the Basalt restrictions include “holiday lighting between Nov. 1 and April 15, municipal lighting of a temporary use, and lighting for “outdoor recreational facilities.”Haas said he may insert modifications based on the IESNA booklet, Aspen’s own experience with lighting, and suggestions from lighting experts.

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