Blinded by the lights
October 4, 2006
Acting on complaints from anonymous citizens, the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission is about to ask the local school district to curtail use of the lights at the athletic field next to the Aspen Middle School.Four of the five P&Z members voted this week to send a letter to the Aspen School District outlying the complaints of constituents regarding the number of nights when the lights are on.”These lights are on all the damned time, or at least that’s how it seems,” said P&Z chair Jasmine Tygre, who brought the matter up at a meeting at City Hall on Oct. 3.
One of her fellow commissioners, Brian Speck, concurred that the lights have been bothering some citizens, although both he and Tygre declined to identify the complainants.And Speck, who graduated from Aspen High School, questioned the need for a lighted field “in a town this size. And for football? Sorry!”He said “people” had complained to him about the height of the light poles, the appearance of them from cars rounding the corner on Maroon Creek Road, and “the intensity of the lights.”The superintendent of schools, Diana Sirko, said she has received “not one” complaint directly to her office, and was somewhat mystified when a reporter called to discuss the matter.
While she admitted that the lights “probably are being used a lot,” she said they have been on only two nights a week at the most in recent weeks, and this week they were in use only once, on Tuesday night. She said the lights will illuminate junior varsity and middle school athletics, including soccer and lacrosse games, which used to be played in the afternoons. They are also used for varsity games on most Friday nights except when the teams travel to play in other towns.Plus, she said, the lights may be turned on occasionally for late-afternoon events as the autumn wears on and the sun goes down earlier every week, and in the summer months to accommodate “community sporting events.”But they’re never on late,” she maintained, usually only until a little after 8 p.m. or so.But Tygre said complaints have centered around the town’s growing light pollution in general, which she said has is getting worse, especially with the contribution from the field lights.
She noted that the city has spent considerable time and effort on a lighting ordinance to reduce ambient light pollution, but that the school district and Aspen Valley Hospital both “are not really subject to our regulations.”And she wondered whether this kind of light pollution is acceptable for “a city that’s supposed to be so environmentally conscious.”The letter is to be drafted by city staff members and submitted to the P&Z at a future meeting for approval.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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