Shady Cove considers light ordinance

An unresolved dispute between neighbors prompted the city of Shady Cove to draft an ordinance addressing light that "trespasses" onto another neighbor's property.

"The original complaint was the catalyst in getting us to look at the problem," said Planning Commissioner Ed Mayer.

The incident involved a neighbor who erected a light that shined brightly into another neighbor's window. After several unsuccessful attempts to resolve the issue, the light-annoyed neighbor decided to approach the city for some help.

"This isn't an isolated incident," Mayer said. Other people in the community have experienced the same problem.

After some research, Shady Cove City Council found the city had no light ordinance, so the Planning Commission decided to draft the ordinance earlier this year.

Shady Cove City Administrator Joseph Riker said he doesn't believe many cities in Oregon have light ordinances, based on the League of Oregon Cities website.

Besides addressing disputes between neighbors, the ordinance also attempts to keep night skies dark and to promote the use of energy-saving light bulbs.

Riker noted that lights in big cities obscure the stars in the sky.

"We're a rural city, we want to see stars," he said.

The Planning Commission will bring a final draft of the ordinance to the City Council for adoption by the end of the year.

Planning commissioners on Thursday discussed establishing a brightness level for outdoor bulbs that don't have shielding. Lights installed for safety reasons would be exempt.

"All light needs direction unless it's below a certain lumen," Commissioner Thaddeus Gala said. "A 100-watt light bulb that's nondirectional is still very bright to me."

"The big emphasis on this ordinance is not so much the brightness of the light, but on light trespass ... how much it shines on the neighbor," Riker said Friday.

Riker said lights that bother neighbors could easily be corrected with shielding. City officials would enforce the ordinance whenever they received a complaint and would first give a verbal warning to shield the light.

"Correct it or you'll get a fine," Riker said.

For more information about the ordinance, call Shady Cove City Hall at 541-878-2225.

Vera Westbrook is a reporting intern for the Mail Tribune.

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