LAKE JACKSON — City Council heard a complaint of a neighbor’s “assaultive” lighting from a long-time, involved resident, but said their options are limited by the state legislature.
Phil Creveling is a 30-year resident of Lake Jackson who lives along Oyster Creek, he said.
“I’ve enjoyed the quiet, the darkness along that creek,” Creveling told the council Monday.
He showed council a picture he took of a house a few doors down and across the creek, which keeps its bright backyard lights on all night, he said.
“That’s a classic example of excessive lighting that’s offensive to myself and other neighbors around me,” Creveling said.
The issue was placed on the meeting agenda as a request from Creveling to “seek certification for Lake Jackson to become a Dark Sky Community from the International Dark-Sky Association which would allow the regulation of lighting in residential areas.”
This is not what Creveling asked for, he said, adding that he would just like a way for the city to enforce residential lighting regulations.
“The only reason it was put on the agenda the way it was is because we are limited to enforce lighting outside unless we are a Dark Sky Community,” City Manager Bill Yenne said.
This came out of the 86th Legislature, City Attorney Sherri Russell said. Cities are not allowed to limit outdoor lighting to stop light pollution unless they are designated as a Dark Sky Community, she said.
This is from House Bill 2439, which prohibits cities from prohibiting or limiting, directly or indirectly, the use or installation of a building product or material in the construction, renovation, maintenance or other alteration of a residential or commercial building if the building product or material is approved for use by a national model code published within the last three code cycles.
That does not apply to an ordinance or other regulation that regulates outdoor lighting that is adopted for the purpose of reducing light pollution that is adopted by a governmental entity certified as a Dark Sky Community by the International Dark-Sky Association, the law states.
The International Dark-Sky Association is a nonprofit organization that works to preserve the night sky from light pollution, according to its website. It still allows outdoor lighting for reasons including safety and commerce but encourages it to only be on when needed, only lighting the area that needs it, be no brighter than necessary and be fully shielded by pointing downward, the website states.
A Dark Sky Community is a town, city or municipality that “has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education and citizen support of dark skies,” the website states. Those communities include Dripping Springs and Wimberley Valley in Texas.
Even if a city can’t get certified as absolutely compliant to Dark Sky requirements, it still can do information sessions, hand out flyers and encourage people to voluntarily comply to the standards, Creveling said.
The city is moving toward LED outdoor lighting, Mayor Bob Sipple said, which will cause less light pollution. But asking people to trade out the kind of lighting they use at their homes can get expensive, he said.
When questioned whether Creveling had spoken to the resident of the brightly lit house on Circle Way, he said the house is unoccupied. He does plan to send a letter to the owner he discovered through tax records, Creveling said.
That could solve his current problem, but he still worries about other residents who might face the same issue, he said.
“I’ll step down, I’ll leave it with y’all to see what can be done,” Creveling said.
Council took no action on the agenda item. City staff plans to look into the new law and see if it prohibits addressing residential lighting from a nuisance perspective, City Secretary Alice Rodgers said.