East Hampton Lighting Legislation Still on the Table

Posted on 11 June 2014

By Mara Certic

An amended version of East Hampton Town’s 2006 Smart Lighting ordinance had residents up in arms at Thursday’s East Hampton Town Board meeting.

The law was intended to promote public safety on highways and roads, protect landowners from the intrusive effects of public lighting, protect the rural character of the town and to maintain and restore the beauty of the night sky.

For two years a special committee has been looking into revisions to the law that were spearheaded by former Councilman Theresa Quigley.

A portion of the law that seeks to facilitate lighting fixture upgrades were discussed for more than an hour by environmentalists and business owners alike.

The amendments would change the way the law is administered, with lighting plan applications being sent to the Planning Department rather than the Building Department. The changes would also aim to assist property owners in making appropriate alterations to their outdoor lighting. Not only would they be given more time to carry out changes mandated by the law, but the law would also now expedite or fast-track business lighting plans if insurance coverage is in jeopardy.

“One of the greatest fears for a business owner is the threat of losing your insurance,” said Margaret Turner, the executive director of the East Hampton Business Alliance.  Ms. Turner served on the committee that was asked to make recommendations to revise the law.

Other changes to the law include the decision to allow lights on utility poles—on the condition that the poles are on private land, where it previously did not.

The change that really riled up the amassed residents, however, was what town planner Eric Shantz described as a change to one of the guidelines the planning board is supposed to follow.

This particular amendment, under the lighting specific standards and restrictions section, would require that bulbs used in outdoor lighting should aim to have “a color temperature of no greater than 3000 Kelvin.”

Dark sky enthusiasts were not pleased with a section that would allow the planning board to “permit light sources to be higher, but not to exceed 3500K based on energy and effective, efficient lighting design which may include a reduction in the number of fixtures and poles.”

“You’re almost there, you’ve almost got it exactly right. This isn’t the lighting code that I would write, but I’m an environmentalist,” said Jeremy Samuelson, the executive director of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk. “I think this represents a compromise, but I think there’s one line that goes a step too far.”

The higher the Kelvin, it was explained, the “cooler” and “bluer” and brighter the light.

Anne Tait, a resident of Amagansett, read a letter to the board on behalf of Terry Beanstalk and the other members of the board of directors of the Montauk Observatory. The letter said that lights at 3,000K are “better for night vision, [have] less impact on flora and fauna and less sky glow.”

Mr. Samuelson added that he did not believe anyone had made a “compelling case” as to why the town should allow more powerful lights.  “Go ahead and reflect on the policies that have been adopted by Suffolk County, “ he said, citing Brookhaven as an example. “This is not some rabid band of hippy liberals from Oregon we’re talking about. This is Suffolk County.”

Jim Broderick of Amagansett read from an article that appeared in the East Hampton Star in September 2010, which quoted former Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin McCarrick at a public hearing in East Hampton about this very legislation, saying that “I’m here to tell you it’s working fine in Brookhaven,” and suggesting that the same thing could work in East Hampton.

Mr. Broderick added that he knows a bit about color temperatures and that he has “expensive” meters with which he reads them. “There is a substantial difference between 3000K and 3500K,” he said. “In terms of vision there’s zero difference; in terms of the bad effects of it, there’s a big difference.”

Ms. Turner, in turn, read from a study done by the Lighting Design Lab, a non-profit energy-efficient lighting design resource, which defined lamps with a lower color temperature as those that register at 3500K or less.

Mark Jarbo of Montauk, who also sat on the committee to amend the law, expressed frustration at the residents’ opposition. “We worked tirelessly for two years to try to make this law simpler,” he said. “Keep it simple, keep it safe,” he warned the board.

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