John Grahame, a member of DarkSky International Southern Arizona Chapter, expressed his enthusiasm following a forum on the outdoor lighting code update for Pima County and the City of Tucson. The event, attended by about 100 Green Valley residents, featured discussions led by Bill O’Malley, Chair of Green Valley Council’s Planning and Architecture Committee, and Dan Ice, Pima County’s Chief Building Official.
Community Concerns and Participation
The impressive turnout highlighted the strong concern among Green Valley residents about light pollution. Grahame emphasized the residents’ eagerness to address the issue and pointed out that fixing light pollution is not a complex task.
Pima County and the City of Tucson, in collaboration with representatives from the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, have been working on updating the lighting code for several months.
Historical Perspective on Light Pollution Regulations
The first ordinance addressing artificial light pollution was enacted in 1972, driven by the proximity of federal and university observatories to Tucson. The need to balance urban development with the preservation of dark skies has been a longstanding concern.
Understanding Lighting Terminology
O’Malley and Ice dedicated over an hour to explaining key lighting terms such as Kelvin, lumens, and watts. Kelvin measures the color temperature of light, and O’Malley highlighted the recommended maximum of 3500K for outdoor lighting in Green Valley and Tucson.
Watts measure power consumption, while lumens gauge the total light emitted by a bulb. The duo introduced a residential light cap of 12,000 lumens per acre, translating to specific limitations on outdoor lighting based on property size.
Lighting Restrictions and Prohibitions
O’Malley and Ice outlined various lighting prohibitions, including restrictions on bottom-mounted sign lighting, mercury vapor lamps, and illuminated signs in commercial and residential areas. Compliance is encouraged through self-reporting, as Pima County does not actively seek violations.
Addressing Concerns and Building Awareness
During the forum, residents raised concerns about neighbors or homeowners’ associations violating the lighting code. Pam Weston stressed the importance of education and communication, advocating for understanding the reasons behind the rules rather than punitive measures.
The impact of light pollution on security and wildlife was discussed, with examples of burglars being shielded by poorly directed floodlights and birds avoiding feeders in overly bright areas.
The Impact of Light Pollution on Astronomers and Wildlife
Joanna Hinks, with a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering, shared experiences of making equipment adjustments at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory due to light pollution. Grahame emphasized the need for education, expressing a desire for the updated code to include a definition of light trespassing and its prohibition.
Community Call for Simplified Information
A participant urged O’Malley and Ice to simplify their information for wider distribution. The speakers acknowledged the request and committed to making the information more accessible.
A Naturopathic Doctor’s Perspective
Verne St. Clair, a naturopathic doctor, emphasized the significant detrimental effects of light pollution on humans, in addition to its impact on astronomers and wildlife.
Fostering Community Awareness and Action
The forum provided Green Valley residents with valuable insights into the updated outdoor lighting code. As the community grapples with the complexities of balancing development with dark sky preservation, there is a growing realization of the need for education and proactive steps to mitigate light pollution.