City staff oppose Hollingsworth’s proposal to keep us in the dark

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In the last three years, the City of Sault Ste. Marie has received only three reports of power intrusion

A light pollution statute proposed by Ward 1 Couns. Sandra Hollingsworth and Paul Christian could work in Huntsville but not in Sault Ste. Marie, the city council will be told Tuesday.

“It’s important to note that Huntsville is an outlier in that it’s more of an outdoor recreation/tourist destination where preserved, darker skies serve as a treat,” says Jonathan Kircal of the city’s planning staff.

“Such an approach would not be feasible for Sault Ste. Marie,” Kircal says in a report prepared for Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“Locally, the issue of residential impact is rare, as evidenced by the low number of electricity-related complaints received by staff,” Kircal added.

Hollingsworth and Christian persuaded their fellow councilmembers in April to have staff study a dark sky statute to control inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light that affects humans, wildlife or the weather.

Kircal’s report describes four types of light pollution:

  • glare: excessive brightness that causes visual disturbances
  • skyglow: glow of the night sky over inhabited areas
  • light trespassing: light falling where it is neither intended nor needed
  • clutter: bright, confusing, and excessive light sources

“Light pollution can lead to nuisance problems among homeowners due to light trespass,” he said.

“It can also have impacts on the health and safety of humans and wildlife and energy conservation. Excessive light pollution also blurs the night sky and obstructs astronomical research.”

“The rapid pace of urbanization and the trend to illuminate more spaces with brighter lights has prompted advocacy for a controlled approach to artificial outdoor lighting.”

Huntsville was the only municipality in Ontario that Kircal could find that sought to regulate ambient light pollution beyond simple light trespass.

“This municipality requires light fixtures to have a ‘full cut-off design’ to ensure light is cast straight down, without excess light,” he said.

In the last three years, the city of Sault Ste. Marie has received only three minor reports of trespassing.

“One of the complaints concerned exterior lighting on a commercial property reflecting off an adjacent residential property. The commercial property was under a site plan control agreement that had a light trespass clause. This allowed the city ​​to enforce and correct the problem,” Kircal said.

“The second complaint was filed against an apartment building that was under an older SPC [site plan control] agreement without clause; therefore, the city could not intervene.”

“The third and most recent complaint concerned an exterior light between two single-family homes. The City Council was unable to intervene.”

“In the absence of a light-related clause in the SPC or property standards statute,” Kircal said, the city’s building enforcement officers attempt to resolve vexing issues by seeking resolution between affected parties.

“Beyond this, the matter is strictly civil in nature.”

While he did not support a light pollution statute, Kircal said city staff will add light trespass clauses to the new and modified site plan control agreements.

“The planning staff will add additional policy drafts that will support a broader application of light reduction methods taking into account the many impacts that excessive lighting has on the natural environment, energy conservation and personal enjoyment of his property”.

“Such policies will better ensure that new development, growth and rezoning proposals reflect these values.”

“It is recognized that padding and intensifying development trends combined with the increasing accessibility of new light technology that has become brighter and more visually intrusive could potentially result in a higher prevalence of light-related complaints in the future. Staff will monitor such complaints and be prepared to respond accordingly.”

The town hall will be broadcast live on SooHoy starting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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