Tag Archive | "dark skies"

East Hampton Lighting Legislation Still on the Table

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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.

Dark Skies Passes 4-1

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An effort to keep the skies over Southampton Town darker and the stars more visible has been approved. After closing the public hearing on November 24, the Southampton Town Board passed the outdoor lighting, or “Dark Skies,” legislation this Tuesday. Town supervisor Linda Kabot, along with councilwomen Anna Throne-Holst, Nancy Graboski and Sally Pope, supported the resolution, but councilman Chris Nuzzi voted against it. The law, explained its sponsor, Graboski, is aimed at handling instances of nuisance lighting and enacting the use of shielded lights, and energy efficient bulbs, for new constructions.

“Good outdoor lighting at night in the Town of Southampton benefits everyone as it increases safety due to reduced glare, promotes good health of our environment and citizenry, and preserves the ability to view the stars against a dark night sky,” said the introduction of the law.

When the first public hearing on the lighting law was held in June, the measure received criticism from local business organizations. At a meeting in early June, Richard Warren with the Southampton Business Alliance said the law would incur significant costs for homeowners and commercial businesses. One of the earliest versions of the “Dark Skies” legislation stipulated that all pre-existing lighting had to be brought into compliance within 10 years of the legislation’s effective date. Some supporters of the law, including a representative from the Group for the East End, suggested town residents be given only five years to become compliant. The law was vetted in public hearings for several months.

“We took all of those concerns raised and evaluated them. I was grateful that everyone was taking the time to take a hard look at this. It is a comprehensive law and the fact that it took a period of time really isn’t unusual,” explained Graboski. “We did an overhaul of the sign ordinance in 2005. It took several hearings to refine it and to get it to an acceptable place.”

In the current version of the law, all pre-existing lighting is exempt from the provisions of the “Dark Skies” legislation unless the property owner is replacing, changing, repairing or relocating a light fixture. Holiday lighting and lights that illuminate a flag pole are also exempt. Graboski explained that if a resident simply changes a bulb of an outdoor light, they wouldn’t need to bring the lighting fixture into compliance. However, if the same resident wished to move the light fixture to a different place on the property, then the light would have to be brought up to code. New constructions or additions, for both commercial businesses and homeowners, will need to comply with the “Outdoor Lighting” law.

The new law includes a nuisance clause, which Graboski hopes will satisfy individual cases of light violation. A town resident can file a complaint with the town building department regarding a nuisance light at a neighboring property. The complaint has to be lodged by a neighbor of the offending property. Once the town investigates the case and finds that the property owner is violating the standards of “dark skies” friendly lighting then they will have 30 days to come into compliance. Residents who fail to change their lighting face fines ranging from $250 up to $500. Repeat offenders within a three-year period face misdemeanor charges and a fine of $1,000. Commercial businesses that are found to be violating the “Dark Skies” provisions, after a complaint has been filed, and fail to come into compliance within 30 days, must pay fines ranging from $500 to $1,000. If the business owner repeats the offense two or more times over three years, they also face a misdemeanor charge and pay a $3,000 fine.

Of the “Dark Skies legislation, Graboski said, “the law is giving us a better standard.”

Business Members Against “Dark Skies” Bill

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After five public hearings, dating back several months, it appeared Southampton Town’s “Dark Skies” legislation was gaining traction in the community and moving closer to appeasing both residents and owners of commercial properties. At a town board meeting held on Tuesday, however, members of local business organizations strongly vocalized their discontent with the provisions and purpose of the law. These residents are concerned with the cost of replacing outdoor bulbs and light fixtures and believe the town is trying to solve a nuisance problem with a zoning code change. The business community seems to prefer educating the public on light pollution and energy efficient lighting instead of enacting mandatory regulations.

“The Southampton Business Alliance Board of Directors remains opposed to the idea of any type of mandatory program which would require every property owner with non-conforming outdoor lighting fixtures to change their fixtures even when they are not undertaking improvements to their business or home,” stated alliance president, and environmental and planning consultant, Richard Warren during the meeting.

Warren contended that outdoor lighting is used to deter intruders and give peace of mind to elderly residents. The alliance, he added, supports bringing new constructions or renovations into compliance with these new outdoor lighting provisions, but feels pre-exisitng homes and businesses should be exempt from the regulations. Instead, the alliance would like the town to offer tax incentives to encourage people to comply.

“There are young families working hard to make ends meet. There are fixed middle-income families as well. Almost all will be affected . . . for instituting a public policy, but at no public cost – but one that is based solely upon the use of hard-earned private dollars,” remarked Warren.

Tim Rumph, on behalf of the alliance, presented a cursory cost analysis for replacing six outdoor light fixtures of a residential home. Rumph said the total expense, including parts and hiring two electricians for one day, is between $2,000 to $5,000 and is prohibitively expensive for many residents given the current economy.

Assistant town attorney, Joe Burke, however, pointed out residents need to decrease the wattage of their outdoor light bulbs within six months of the adoption of the law, which only requires them to buy new light bulbs. Another provision stipulates a resident must re-aim their outdoor lights within a year of the law’s approval, but added that he didn’t believe this would incur additional costs for the homeowner. Residents have five years to come into compliance with all the other provisions of the law, but commercial property owners have ten years to bring their businesses into compliance.

Some members of the community felt the sunset provisions of the law lessened the financial burden on business owners and residents, because the economy will most likely be stable and grow within the next five years to ten years.

Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who has championed this piece of legislation, presented some preliminary research showing the cost savings from using energy efficient bulbs. According to Graboski, a home equipped with light emitting diodes, or LED, bulbs costs only $32.85 a year to operate, where as a home using incandescent light bulbs costs around $328.59 to operate.

Susan Harder, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association’s New York Chapter, made the case that regulating outdoor lighting is as much about promoting green technologies as it is about public safety. Harder argues glare contributes a great deal to a lack of visibility on roadways.

However, others contended the town could create a nuisance ordinance to deal with specific light issues. This would give town code enforcement and police recourse in dealing with lighting issues between neighbors.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Graboski announced the public hearings would be adjourned until September 22, giving her and Burke time to find a solution to please all sides.

Public Dissent on Dark Skies

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When the “Dark Skies” legislation was first proposed by Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, it appeared to be praised by members of the public. Local citizen advisory groups, including the Sag Harbor CAC, had long asked the town for laws impeding light pollution to be put on the books.
Oddly enough, at the first public hearing held on Tuesday, the “Dark Skies” law was met with both outrage and congratulations from local residents.
Richard Warren, the village’s planning consultant, spoke against the draft law on behalf of the Southampton Business Alliance.
“This will incur significant costs for [residents] personally. I know from my own experience an electrician can cost $250 just to come to your house,” said Warren, who is the president of the alliance. He added that the legislation should apply to only new construction or a homeowner building a new addition. Warren believes the town should create incentives for people with pre-existing outdoor lighting to adopt “Dark Skies” lighting. In the current version of the law, all pre-existing outdoor lighting must be brought into compliance within 10 years of the legislation becoming effective.
Some supporters of the law, including a representative from the Group for the East End, suggested town residents be given only five years to become compliant.
Bob Schepps, president of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce, said the legislation would essentially over regulate town residents.
Assistant town attorney Joe Burke said the intent of the law was to reduce light pollution, to cut down on electricity waste and to prevent the glare or “sky glow” which can infringe on the night sky vista.
“We don’t regulate lighting at all right now,” reported supervisor Linda Kabot. “What Nancy is trying to do is put a comprehensive lighting code on the books.”
Graboski adjourned the hearing and carried it over to the June 23 town board meeting at 6 p.m.

Young Vets Get Benefits of Affordable Housing
In a previous Southampton Town board meeting, the resolution giving military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan first priority on certain affordable housing properties received criticism from the public. Some said it was unfair to single out one particular group of veterans to benefit from the program, though councilman Christopher Nuzzi, who sponsored the legislation, said all income-eligible veterans are included in the general lottery. During Tuesday’s board meeting, however, town residents came out in support of the legislation.
“This law was inspired by several non-profit housing organizations looking to do something good for returning veterans. These young people who go off to war often have to delay a career,” said former town supervisor Patrick “Skip” Heaney, the current county economic development and workforce housing commissioner. Heaney added that the law piggybacks a similar one passed by the county.
“This is aimed at first time home buyers,” continued Heaney.
Daniel Stebbins, a 43-year-old veteran, said housing prices in the town are prohibitively expensive for young residents, forcing them to move elsewhere.
“It would be a shame if in 50 years, there were no vets here,” noted Stebbins.
The board passed the legislation becoming the first town within the county to do so.
“It is great to have Southampton be the model. We hope other towns will meld this into their own code,” remarked Kabot.

Town to Buy Pike Farm, Waiting for County
In a partnership with the county, the town plans to buy the development rights to a 7.4 acre farm on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack, where the Pike Farm Stand operates. The rights will be purchased from the Peconic Land Trust for around $6.4 million. Suffolk County has promised to pay 70 percent of the purchase price.
“This is a community treasure — that is why you see the county stepping up to the plate,” said Kabot, but added that the purchase was contingent on the county partnership.
Mary Wilson, the town’s community preservation fund manager, wasn’t sure if the county’s recent plan to use their main open space funding source to abate county property taxes would affect the purchase of the development rights. During a later interview, county legislator Jay Schneiderman said open space projects are now on hold until the county votes on this legislation, which is expected to be up for a vote in the coming weeks.

Darker Skies Ahead, but Town Says It’s a Good Thing

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by Marissa Maier 

 One advantage to living on the East End is a clear view of the night sky. But as residential and commercial development grows, so does the glow of outdoor lighting which infringes upon this vista. Following the steps of neighboring municipalities including Sag Harbor Village, the Southampton Town Board is considering implementing “Dark Skies” legislation in an effort to cut down on evening light pollution.

 Nearly two weeks ago, the town passed a resolution designating the week of April 20 to April 26 as “Dark Sky” week. The resolution document determined the night sky was a natural resource to be protected by the town. The board asked residents to reduce their use of outdoor lighting and wattage.

 During a town work session, on Friday, April 24, Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski presented a comprehensive draft of an updated town lighting code.

 “This is a preview meeting,” said Graboski at the work session. “We wanted to bring the board into the loop and take this draft to circulate to the various stakeholders, [including] the Green Committee, the Business Alliance and the CACs … We intend to incorporate any preliminary comments.”

 Graboski and her team — planner Janice Scherer, assistant town attorney Joseph Burke, and concerned citizens Susan Harder and Gail Clyma — worked on the lighting code draft for over a year and used legislation in cities across the nation, like Boulder, Colorado, and neighboring towns, from East Hampton to Brookhaven, as models for Southampton.

 The group’s draft includes guidelines on light usage for both residential and commercial properties. For private homes, the draft legislation sets a maximum height for a mounted light fixture at 14 feet, regulates light bulb strength to 100 watts or below and determines that non-essential outdoor lighting is prohibited from dusk to dawn. The town also encourages homeowners to purchase lighting with automated shut off controls.

 Commercial lighting is subject to a different, and more detailed, set of standards. The maximum wattage for light fixtures is set at 100, but a mounted light cannot exceed 12 feet and a light attached to a pole cannot exceed 14 feet. If the legislation passes in its current form, both non-conforming and conforming light fixtures must be shut off within half an hour of the close of the business. Safety and emergency lights will be controlled by photocells, timers or motion sensors and all commercial interior lighting must be off when the facility is closed.

 Graboski said “dark skies” sensitive light fixtures were already in place on the streets of Sag Harbor, with a particularly good example in front of the Whaling Museum. Overhead lighting near the museum is directed downward and the bulbs are encased in glass, which reduces glare.

 Certain light fixtures would be exempt from this legislation, such as holiday, emergency, runway, road construction and communication tower lighting.

 “Any pre-existing lighting would be classified as non-conforming,” noted Scherer, who added that this lighting would be grandfathered in, but subject to code compliance if the property was renovated. Scherer believes much of the lighting in the town already complies with the standards in the draft as the planning board has been following similar criteria for several years.

 “This law will codify the standards and clarify what those standards are,” said Graboski of the draft.

 Provisions similar to the Southampton Town lighting code draft can be found in the proposed Sag Harbor Village zoning code update. If the village code is enacted, lighting fixtures on commercial buildings must be mounted at 12 feet and under. Mercury vapor, laser and neon lighting — if not pre-existing — is explicitly banned. Outdoor commercial lighting must be turned off an hour after a business closes.

 In Southampton, Graboski told the board that an update of the draft legislation will be discussed at a follow-up work session in the coming weeks. A date for the public hearing on the new town lighting code is tentatively set for June 9.

Village Looks At Special Event Permits

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In late June, the Village of Sag Harbor became aware that a Lionel Ritchie concert, among others, was planned at a Glover Street residence to the horror of neighbors. Of greater concern was that the event was planned for Fourth of July weekend, at the same time as the annual fireworks, meaning emergency service personnel and police would be preoccupied elsewhere should an accident occur.

Despite these reservations, there was very little Sag Harbor officials had in the way of power to stop the concert, although the event planners did pull out at the last minute while village officials scrambled in an attempt to obtain a temporary restraining order.

“We really didn’t have any legislation in place or power to deal with that situation,” explained Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris at Tuesday night’s board of trustees meeting.

Which was why trustee Tiffany Scarlato was asked to look at other municipalities in order to draft a stringent special events permit and explore the possibility of the village adopting a rental registry. On Tuesday, Scarlato presented the board with a draft of a special events permit, for discussion only, she cautioned.

On a basic level, the permit would require a permit for any event with more than 75 people anticipated to attend. Fines range between $2000 and $10,000, she said.

“Unfortunately there is sort of a lack of personal responsibility when it comes to maintaining one’s residence,” said Scarlato.

The board is expected to discuss the permit at next month’s meeting on September 9.

                                                 Moratorium Extension

Also on tap for September 9 is a public hearing on extending the commercial moratorium in the Village of Sag Harbor.

For over a year now, while the village is rewriting its zoning code, the village has been in a commercial moratorium, which prohibits site plan review without a planning board waiver. The moratorium, originally enacted in June of 2007 for six months, was extended in December of that year for another six months and in June for another three. The current extension is also for three months as the village anticipates its new code will enter the public hearing process in the next month or two.

 Scarlato noted on Tuesday that while the code is moving towards public hearing two issues have popped up, namely the possibility of 24-hour convenience stores as accessory to filling stations, and lighting provisions, which Scarlato would like to see expanded on.

                                                            Dark Skies

East Hampton resident Susan Harder, director of the New York State Dark Skies Association, announced a demonstration streetlight has been set up in front of the Sag Harbor Historic Society. The light was designed, she noted, to provide better visibility while reducing glare. Harder has worked on similar projects in East Hampton Village and Montauk.

Based on her findings, Harder suggested any new or replacement fixtures, which are already budgeted for, be replaced with these fixtures. Harder noted the fixtures will ultimately save the village money as they employ less wattage than the current fixtures.

Mayor Ferraris suggested on an annual basis the board consider these fixtures for replacements.

The village ended its fiscal year with a $55,000 surplus, although Ferraris noted retroactive pay under the new police contract, dock maintenance and other projects have required the village to dip into its fund balance.

Ferraris said the disclosure is part of what he anticipates will be a quarterly report to the trustees about the village’s financial state. The village treasurer will be at September’s meeting to discuss the first quarter of this fiscal year.

In other village news, the 2007 Suffolk Regional Emergency Medical Services Council awarded the Emergency Medical Service Agency of the Year to the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance. An awards ceremony will be held this October.

Mary Ellen McMahon has been posthumously honored by the Ambulance Corps for her 20-year service to the community, announced President Edward Downes. McMahon passed away this year and the newly acquired ambulance has been dedicated to her with a plaque.