Public input sought on lighting ordinance

On a 3-2 vote, the City Council gave the green light Tuesday to a proposed ordinance that, with a couple of caveats, would control outdoor lighting.

Final approval requires a second reading of the Good Neighbor Lighting Ordinance, which will include a list of holidays on which outdoor lighting will be permissible and for how long. The public is also invited to present its views at the hearing on restrictions and make suggestions about beach lighting and safety issues.

"This won't solve every problem, but it is a good start," said John Stevens, who served on the six-member subcommittee that developed the draft ordinance.

The draft ordinance was presented to the council in May and tabled for some tweaking.

"We have added some educational elements related primarily to residential lighting," Stevens said.

The subcommittee also decided to deem it trespassing when lighting spills off one property onto a neighbor's or public property.

Enforcement of the ordinance will be complaint-driven, which concerned Councilman Kelly Boyd. He said he fears complaints may be filed as retaliation for previous grievances between neighbors, as well as create a "Big Brother" feel.

Boyd and Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson voted against moving the ordinance to the second reading.

Pearson said she would like input about beach lighting from the public and oceanfront hotels.

"It is a safety issue," she said.

Oceanfront property owner John Thomas said his outdoor lighting helps curb illegal activity on the beach below his home.

The ordinance addresses the issue with exemptions for public safety, city officials said.

"If beach lighting is not trespassing — not annoying anyone — it's not a violation," Stevens said.

The ordinance will be tried out for seven months.

"After the trial period we'll check if it's working," said Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly, who served as council liaison to the subcommittee.

Egly reiterated that it was not a ban on outdoor lighting. Often it will take only the changing of a light bulb to lower wattage to be in compliance, she said.

Under the terms in the draft ordinance, outdoor lights would be required to be hooded, fully shielded and aimed downward.

Exemptions include low-voltage landscape lighting that does not exceed 400 lumens, which is 35 incandescent watts; seasonal decorations; lighting associated with historical resources; safety lights controlled by a motion sensor; and accent lighting for art in public places.

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