|Charlestown Wine & Spirits is already dark-sky compliant,|
even without the lighting ordinance.
(Photos by Will Collette)
By Linda Felaco
Back in 2008, when the dark sky ordinance was first drafted, it was a collaborative effort between the Planning Commission and the Economic Improvement Commission. But somewhere along the line, the EIC was cut out of the loop, and now, as we’ve written about extensively here on Progressive Charlestown, several provisions have been added to the ordinance that town businesses have objected to and that would essentially ban nighttime recreational activities and festivals at Ninigret Park.
Opposition to the ordinance is currently so strong that it’s hard to see how it can possibly be passed at Monday night’s Town Council meeting, where it is up for a public hearing and possible vote. (Note that the meeting will be held at the elementary school and will not be live on Clerkbase, though it will be available afterward.) The Planning Commission was still revising the ordinance as of their last meeting, so the version that the council will be voting on Monday night will in essence be sight unseen. And as we saw with the wind ordinance, it only serves to create confusion and diminish confidence in government transparency to have the council voting on bills that differ from the published version.
If the lighting ordinance is to be enacted, several serious problems need to be addressed.
|Atlantic Animal Hospital is so dark-sky compliant you |
can't even get a decent photograph of it at night.
1) Grandfather all existing outdoor commercial lighting fixtures until the end of their useful life, thereby eliminating the burden and expense to business owners of requiring them to upgrade to dark sky lighting anytime they request a building permit.
2) Exempt Ninigret Park from the ordinance. There's no reason why the regulations for the park need to be the same as those for the rest of the town. Deal with the park separately.
3) Modify the limitations on lighting hours so they don’t adversely affect public safety and security.
|Michael's garage: Exhibit A on why we need the|
Perhaps the best thing to do at this point would be if the Town Council were to send the ordinance back to the Planning Commission with instructions that they must engage in true collaboration with other stakeholders and come back with a minimalist ordinance as well as an active voluntary community education and compliance effort. The ordinance cannot and should not be written solely for the benefit of Frosty Drew, which in my opinion has got to be more hampered by their lack of an internet connection than any amount of lighting in town. Perhaps instead of expecting us all to sit in the dark every night, Frosty Drew should get FiOS so they can hook up with the serious telescopes.