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For the week of August 13 - 19, 2003


Giving back the night

Hailey has a new take on light

Express Staff Writer

Old Ready Kilowatt looks a little downcast these days hanging in front of the Idaho Power office in Hailey, but the smiling, unlit icon of electricity fits a new trend in the city.

New dipped lights frame Terry Turner as he waters flowers on Main Street in Hailey. Express photo by Matt Furber

As of Aug. 21, all outdoor lighting must conform to the city’s new outdoor lighting ordinance. Residents are expected to lower their lights’ wattage and redirect them downward immediately. Business and government have until August 2005 to comply.

Father of the ordinance and the movement to reduce light pollution that interferes with the enjoyment of the night sky, Stephan Pauley of Sun Valley is very pleased.

"I am delighted to see that Hailey is finally doing it," he said. "Glare is not good. It is the first time a resident can have redress against an offensive light."

Pauley also helped Ketchum form its lighting ordinance, but the Hailey ordinance is seen as more comprehensive, said Hailey City Planner Dianne Shay.

"We wanted to close some of the loopholes that were in the Ketchum ordinance," Shay said. "People have said our ordinance is one of the best small town ordinances in the country. The Hamptons in New York have adopted our ordinance."

There have been cities in Ohio, Colorado and even the city of Los Angeles that have talked to the Hailey planning department about using the language of their ordinance. "It has been widely used. People are calling it the Hailey Ordinance."

"Two years ago Steve presented his thoughts on the issue to the Hailey Planning and Zoning Department. I got excited about writing dark skies ordinances," Shay said. "I was surprised by the overwhelming support we got in favor of the ordinance at public meetings."

Light pollution is represented by nighttime satellite images of the Korean Peninsula, for instance, which show a stark contrast between North and South.

North Korea appears as a blank space on the globe like the ocean or the Arctic, but South Korea is lit up like Denver or New York City.

Pauley for one would like to see less light "trespassing" into space or at least into neighbors yards.

In an effort to lead by example, the city has commenced replacing or retrofitting all nonconforming lights.

"We are on a three-year program of retrofitting city lights," said Hailey public works superintendent Allan Stowell. "We will replace 20 new heads this year."

The lights, many of which can already be seen on Main Street, are more down cast with lower values.

"It is also a public safety issue," Shay said. With the old "acorn" lights, there was a wide circle of darkness directly under the street lamps where light was most needed. The new lights offer a better use of the resource.

Typically under city ordinances there is some type of "grandfather clause" to allow for nonconforming uses, but under the Hailey lighting ordinance there are no such exceptions.

"What’s the point of trying to reclaim this incredible resource if you’re not going to ask everybody to change their lights," she said.

Idaho Power will also comply with the ordinance, Shay said. "They have been more than willing to help out and do their part. They will soon begin to change out their "cobra head" drop lens streetlights with a flat lens.

The ordinance says that all lighting is required to be essentially downcast without sideways glare, however, some flexibility is allowed for design if the wattage is low enough.

The rule of thumb is that a 40-watt bulb can remain unshielded as long as it is in a fixture that has an opaque top. The ordinance requires additional standards for area lights, parking lot lights, wattage for canopy lights at gas stations, and holiday lights.

Some residents and business owners have expressed concern about the cost of changing their lights. The city has posted the ordinance on the city Web site, and Shay has offered to make a free inspection for anyone who needs help figuring out how to comply with the ordinance and want specific advice about lighting.

Shay would like to see both the city of Bellevue and Blaine County adopt good dark sky ordinances, further expanding the benefit of consciousness about light pollution. Pauley is beginning to put together a lighting ordinance for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

"It would be the first federal dark sky ordinance," he said.



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