Tag Archive | "outdoor lighting"

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.