Fact or Fiction? We don’t need an Outdoor Lighting Ordinance in Blanco.
Truth: We already have one and have had since February 14, 2006, when the City Council adopted the current Unified Development Code, including Section 5.12, Outdoor Lighting. The code is very straightforward and requires that all outdoor lighting installed after the date of adoption must be “hooded, shielded, and/or aimed downward” and that “Light trespass beyond property boundaries or above the horizontal plane shall be considered non-compliant.” The problem is that this ordinance has not been consistently enforced, with the result that we have a great many non-compliant outdoor lighting fixtures adding to the sky glow above Blanco.
Fact or Fiction? Those promoting dark skies in Blanco are just a bunch of tree hugging, environmental wackos.
Truth: Preservation of our night skies has consistently been one of the top priorities of Blanco citizens as expressed in the many meetings that developed the Comprehensive Master Plan and in the seven Texas Historical Commission-sponsored Visionaries in Preservation community workshops that resulted in the Blanco Historic Preservation Action Plan. Beyond the strong community consensus to preserve this part of our rural heritage, the benefits of dark nighttime skies are both environmental and economic. It is a dollars and sense issue. The potential for year-round dark sky tourism in Blanco is great. More tourists will mean more business for Blanco’s commercial establishments, more revenue for the City of Blanco, and more and better city services for our citizens. In addition, there is potential to develop night sky programs at Blanco State Park that can increase park attendance and help keep it off any future closure list.
Fact or Fiction? The Outdoor Lighting Ordinance in Blanco is unenforceable.
Truth: The current Outdoor Lighting Ordinance is very much enforceable. All you have to do is drive around at night and it is very obvious which lights shine above the horizontal plane, trespass off the property, or cause glare. The city’s code enforcement officer can enforce this ordinance just like he does any other, starting with a written notice to the owner of the non-compliant lighting fixture. Hopefully, however, once citizens and businesses become aware of the harmful effects of uncontrolled lighting, they will voluntarily comply with the ordinance and little “enforcement” per se will be needed.
Fact or Fiction? Fixing existing, non-compliant outdoor lights to be night sky friendly will be too expensive.
Truth: Not really. Sometimes to fix the problem a fixture simply needs to be turned so it is aimed downward. No cost at all there. Homemade shields can be fabricated to fit around many lights at next to no cost. Commercially available “par shields” for outdoor floodlights are available for $15-25 a pair. The evil 175 watt mercury vapor “barn light” can be fixed with a $28 aluminum shield that will direct the light down to the ground and still give adequate lighting to the immediate area. Shields for “wall pack” security lights common on commercial buildings can be had for around $60 each. Take a look at the ones several Blanco citizens bought for the Lavender Laundry on Highway 281 next to Dairy Queen several years ago. If you remember the glare caused by those “security” lights before the shields were installed, you will agree that was money well spent. Shields are even available for city streetlights that can direct the light onto just the street and prevent light trespass into bedroom windows at night. For most Blanco citizens and businesses, the cost of shielding non-compliant outdoor lighting will be minimal compared with the benefit gained.
For more information on night friendly lighting fixtures, light pollution abatement efforts, or other night sky issues, contact Wayne Gosnell, 833-0586, GosnellTexas@gmail.com.