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Oakland Town Commission puts the dark back into the night sky

Instant Photo Poster
Norine Dworkin

Founding Editor

Monday, January 18, 2021


Courtesy of George Hodan

In a move that’s sure to thrill amateur astronomers, the Oakland Town Commission Tuesday night unanimously approved an update to the zoning code, mandating that all new residential and commercial buildings be constructed with outdoor lighting that is “dark-sky compliant.” 

In the update, Ordinance 2021-02 will require that dark-sky compliant lighting follow these principles: 

  • Light only the area required (shield or point lighting downward so it doesn’t “spill” out) 

  • Use only as much light as required 

  • Turn lights off when not needed (use timers/motion detectors) 

  • Choose warm lighting over blue-violet lights 

The movement to restore the night sky — and yes, it is a movement — stretches back to 1958 when Flagstaff, Ariz., enacted the world’s first outdoor lighting ordinance. It’s one of only 22 U.S. cities that is certified by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as a Dark-Sky Community. 

Not only does dark sky-compliant lighting help curb light pollution, so you can see the stars — Flagstaffians can look up and see the Milky Way — it protects wildlife too. According to IDA, artificial lighting disrupts migratory patterns of birds and sea turtle hatchlings and confuses nocturnal animals

Dark-sky lighting also saves money and cuts back on carbon emissions. In the U.S., at least 30 percent of outdoor lighting is wasted at an estimated cost of $3.3 billion and 21 million tons of carbon dioxide released annually, according to information on IDA’s website. But appropriate outdoor lighting could potentially reduce that by up to 70 percent, in turn saving both money and carbon emissions, said the IDA. 

“The town is pleased to be on the forefront of the dark-sky initiative nationwide," said town manager Stephen Koontz. "Simply put, this concept reflects the values of our environmentally conscious community and helps us to continue to support and protect the Oakland Nature Preserve.”

Note: The story has been updated to reflect that the town commission unanimously approved the zoning code change.

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