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Dark Skies discussion pushed back

By Staff | Nov 19, 2014

The Dark Skies ordinance discussion by the Sanibel City Council has been pushed to December’s meeting, after a lengthy conversation took place at November’s meeting Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Sanibel Vice Mayor and councilman Doug Congress gave a PowerPoint presentation on the progress of the ordinance and some recommendations, which include a three-year extension for residents and businesses to comply with Dark Skies.

“The intended purpose of Dark Skies is quite simple, we want to look up in the skies and see the stars,” Congress said. “We also want to protect our environment and our wildlife. It seems like a real simple, logical solution, but the devil is in the details.”

The two basic ways to comply with the ordinance is to have outdoor lighting shielded from the top and not having any lighting fixtures pointing up into the sky.

“The major offenders will be those who have their lights unshielded (like a globe-like bulb) or pointing up,” Congress said.

There is some disagreement in the community that since the Dark Skies ordinance’s compliance period has been in affect for the last 15 years, there shouldn’t be any extensions given to comply. But Congress’ recommendation is offering three more years to those who have been grandfathered in previously.

“Fixtures down here don’t last and in five years or so, people will have to replace them,” Congress said. “When they replace them, they will know of the Dark Sky ordinance and will replace their fixtures to become compliant. That’s our goal.”

Educating will be the main goal of the City Council and in return, acceptance from the citizens is the end point.

“The question is how to get people to comply with the ordinance,” Congress said. “You will never have 100-percent compliance, no matter how harsh you try and mandate this. So, I like to see us take the approach to have the entire community embrace this ordinance and want to comply. The problem is, there hasn’t been any educational information out there. The fault is both on the community for not knowing and on the city level for not educating.”

But the basic principle and goal of Dark Skies has had a positive affect on the island the last 15 years. People can see firsthand when driving over the Causeway at night and can’t see Sanibel Island because it is dark and lightning is sparse on the outer edges.

Congress wants to improve on that, thus giving a little wiggle room in the form of the three-year extension for compliance.

“We had 15 years to make sure there was compliance. The island is dark and we can see the stars and we absolutely have protected our environment and wildlife,” Congress said. “On a grade scale, I give us a solid B-plus. Now, we need to work towards getting that up to an ‘A’. This won’t happen at a light-speed pace, but if we show this incremental process towards that ‘A’, then that’s what we are going for.

“But, in those three years, people will need to become compliant.”