Article originally posted on February 14th, 2018 on the Bandera Bulletin (banderabulletin.com), written by Bill Pack (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Bandera City Council last week endorsed the Dark Skies movement that has swept the Hill Country by modifying its outdoor lighting regulations to get outdoor lights focused downward rather than allowing rays to stray into the night sky.
The new outdoor lighting amendment won quick passage from council on Feb. 6 as members agreed changes were needed to preserve the clarity of the stars in the night sky by limiting where light from outdoor fixtures is allowed to shine.
Instead of spraying outward and even upward into the night sky, light from modified fixtures will be focused downward where it’s needed, energy will be saved as will the appeal of the night sky, council members said.
“It’s a movement stretching across the Hill Country that we’re getting in step with,” said Mayor Suzanne Schauman after the vote. “I think it will be a good thing.”
The amended ordinance requires shields, hoods and coatings on light fixtures that keep the light from straying sideways and upward or from being seen at any surrounding property. The only time outdoor lighting is allowed to drift upwards is when the fixture is shielded by a roof or overhang.
Exterior lights added to projects and those included in significant renovations of buildings must comply with the new regulations.
Noncomplying fixtures already installed in buildings, including homes, before the amendment was adopted can remain in use for five years from the date the amendment was approved but then need to be modified to meet the new standards, the amendment says.
Councilwoman Lynn Palmer said a variety of light shielding devices already are available at hardware stores for homeowners and business owners to use in complying with the new rules. Changing the kind of bulbs used will be helpful in some instances, and homemade remedies are likely to arise, she said.
“I think it’s going to be easy to comply with,” Palmer said.
The mayor agreed, saying that some light restricting devices the city put on fixtures in Heritage Park did not cost much. The Bandera Electric Cooperative is working with the city to see that street lights comply with the new regulations, Schauman said.
Councilwoman Rebeca Gibson, who has long been an advocate of the dark skies reforms, said the city’s new rules are part of a global initiative that has arisen in response to the problems caused by light pollution both to the environment and to the health of people and animals.
Outdoor lights that shine where they need to shine save people money and can create a safer environment because they produce less glare than inefficient lighting fixtures, she said.
Gibson has not heard one complaint about the new regulations but also understands the city will need to hold informational sessions to help the public understand how it can comply with the ordinance.
“It’s affordable, and it’s about being a good neighbor,” the councilwoman said. “Any outdoor light can be adapted to comply with the ordinance.”
The regulations prohibit additional installations of mercury vapor fixtures and say barn-light style fixtures will only be allowed with full opaque reflectors rather than translucent lenses.
The amendment does provide exceptions for outdoor lighting used for holiday displays, light needed by law enforcement and other emergency services, lighting required on motor vehicles and lighting required for aircraft operations.