Council considers light ordinance

Published 7:21 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A new city of LaGrange ordinance could make it an ordinance violation to point floodlights at another person’s property.

On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council called for a public hearing on the creation of an outdoor lighting ordinance.

“[A citizen] who lives on Whitaker came to council a couple of meetings ago and talked about the light that shines into her home,” City Manager Meg Kelsey said. “This was part of the new UDO [Unified Development Ordinance] that Leigh [Threadgill, the city planner] has been working on. That’s actually already in that document, so we just pulled it out to address this issue now.”

According to Threadgill, most communities have an ordinance similar to the proposed ordinance, and many companies ask for a copy of the currently non-existent regulations while building in LaGrange. The ordinance will regulate both business and residential outdoor lighting.

“This is a thing that a lot of communities actually do now. They actually regulate lighting to try to cut down on light pollution and nuisance lighting,” Threadgill said.

“Our consultant already drafted regulations to address some of the concerns that Ms. Ashley before the council meeting in the last couple of months related to a neighbor that is lighting up her yard, essentially, with floodlights.”

However, the ordinance will address more than just floodlights in a residential area.

“This is a bigger piece than just that situation,” Threadgill said. “It deals with parking lot lighting and light trespass in general, light spillover. With LED lights today — from what I’m told by Patrick [Bowie, LaGrange Utilities director] — this isn’t really as much of an issue as it used to be.”

Threadgill said that city staff would be able to measure light in foot-candles using a phone app, and like most code enforcement concerns, lighting nuisance enforcement would be primarily complaint driven.

Council Member Tom Gore asked if the updated ordinance would impact the hours allowable for outdoor lighting, and Threadgill said it would not impact hours so much as where the light shines in relation to property lines.

“From a safety standpoint, you don’t want to completely cut all lighting, but you do want to be sure that you are not causing a problem for neighbors,” Threadgill said. “For the residential piece, at the property line, it says 0.5 foot-candles, and so that is a very low level of light that we can measure right at that property line that shouldn’t cause any disturbance or distress to the neighbor. That is what the goal is.”

According to the ordinance, a maximum of 1 foot-candle of light would be allowable at a property line abutting an office or industrial use, and the ordinance also included specifications for off-street parking lots and other uses.

Council Member Nathan Gaskin asked if lights controlled by motion sensors would be regulated in the same way as other outdoor lighting.

Items exempt under the regulations include underwater lighting used for swimming pools and fountains, temporary holiday lighting, security lighting controlled and activated by a motion sensor device for a duration of 10 minutes or less, emergency lighting used by police, fire or medical personnel and lighting required or regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration or other specified, authorized government agencies.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Arrington asked if city lighting currently follows the guidelines, and Threadgill said she believed it would.

The board of planning and zoning recommended approval. The public hearing for the ordinance will take place on July 11 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.