Lighting regulations on hold for now

A proposal to change the zoning regulations to exempt one and two-family dwellings from the city’s zoning regulations for lighting has been temporarily withdrawn from consideration.

At the Feb. 6 public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z), seven people spoke on the topic and asked the board to retain the current regulation. Two of those speakers asked the board to hold open the hearing to give them time to research the issue further. No one spoke in favor of the text change.

The board held open the public hearing for its Feb. 20 meeting, but at that meeting the proposal was withdrawn without any explanation.

Speaking by phone on March 8, Joseph D. Griffith, director of permitting and land use, said the withdrawal followed a discussion with zoning staff and the city attorney.

“We withdrew it at this time because we felt it needed more thought and consideration,” said Griffith, adding that the proposal might be reintroduced at a future meeting.

Griffith explained that commercial projects require submission of a photometric survey with site plans. The survey provides the necessary information to determine if a project is complying with the city’s regulations for light trespass.

“Unless we require a photometric survey for every residential home, we would not have that tool to work with,” said Griffith.

He said the city does not want to have regulations that require every project to have a photometric survey.

Elected officials and residents urged the board at the Feb. 6 public hearing to retain the current regulations, saying they are needed to protect the quality of life for homeowners.

At the Feb. 6 meeting, City Planner David B. Sulkis said zoning staff recommended the change, saying the current regulation is unenforceable and not enforced because single-family homes are not subject to the site plan review process.

These properties do not have photometric surveys on file, and the city cannot compel a homeowner to provide such information in the case of a dispute involving lighting levels, Sulkis said.

“Further, staff does not have the ability to inspect and make a determination of lighting issues after business hours, which is typically when there is a light complaint,” wrote Sulkis in his memo to the board.

He indicated the city attorney supports this decision, as the zoning office does not typically bring to court actions that come from disputes between neighbors.

The proposed change to Sections 5.2.1 and of the zoning regulations would have exempted “light emanating from one and two family dwellings in residential zones from light regulations.” The change would have applied to the following zones: R-5, R-7.5, R-12.5, R-18, R-30, R-A, and SFA-10.

The other proposed change would rework the wording discussing how the regulation would apply to other uses to clarify the maximum illumination permitted from an adjacent property that is not a single or two family use.

The board did not have a March 6 meeting because there were no applications to review.