BOGUE — Councilmen Monday night turned down, for now, an offer by the Eastern Carolina Council of Governments to write the town an ordinance that over time could reduce light pollution.
The decision, without an official vote, came during the panel’s monthly meeting in town hall off Chimney Branch Road.
“I’m not saying no, just that we need to think about,” Mayor Ricky Taylor told ECCOG Regional Planning Director Chad Davis, who made a presentation to the council about a so-called “dark sky” ordinance.
The ECCOG planner also made a presentation in the afternoon to anyone who wanted to attend, a session that drew some interest from outside the town.
Basically, Mr. Davis said, he would write the town a ordinance which, if enacted, would grandfather existing lights, including streetlights and signs, but would require new lights to be certified by the International Dark-Sky Association.
The IDSA has been pushing dark sky ordinances for years, first as a means of reducing lighting that makes it hard for people, including astronomers, to see stars at night, but also because studies have shown bright light in the sky can disrupt sleep patterns of people and wildlife.
It’s also of concern to the military, and ECCOG has a contract with the U.S. Marine Corps to work on dark sky ordinances with local governments near Bogue Field, an auxiliary landing strip for Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The military likes dark sky ordinances because the glow in the sky from ground-based lights, particularly in highly developed urban areas, can inhibit night training.
Mr. Davis is also scheduled to pitch the ordinance idea to Emerald Isle officials in the near future. He noted dark sky ordinances for towns were a recommendation included in the final report a few years ago by a joint planning effort by the county, its towns and the Marine Corps.
The goal of an ordinance would be to shield new lights with metal or paint to keep the light headed toward the ground. Existing fixtures would be replaced with IDSA-certified ones when needed. The same would go for electric signs.
Some U.S. cities and towns, Mr. Davis said, have adopted complicated ordinances that base regulations on zoning districts and geographic locations and require tools to measure compliance. That’s not what he envisions for Bogue.
“We’re not looking at the IDSA model (ordinance) for you,” he said. “It would be something very simple. And we can write it for you. Are you willing to try it out?”
Mayor Taylor replied quickly to the direct question.
“I think it’s something we need to talk about,” he said. “We’re not going to make a decision tonight.”
The mayor and a couple of councilmen wondered if such an ordinance would require more lights to illuminate the same streets safely. Mr. Davis said that wouldn’t be the case.
They also wondered if the power company in the area, Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative, is on board.
Mayor Taylor reiterated Bogue is a small town and might not need such an ordinance.
Town Attorney Donna Boggs asked Mr. Davis if there has been any push by the military to mandate that towns near installations adopt dark sky ordinances, and Mr. Davis replied there is no such mandate or a date mentioned in the joint land-use plan.
Town Clerk Elizabeth Sweeney said if the ECCOG drafted an ordinance for the town, it would first go to the planning board for a recommendation, then to the council for consideration.
But Mr. Taylor said he wasn’t ready to give Mr. Davis the go-ahead.
“We just need to think about it before we get on that train and ride,” he said.
Councilman Herb Page said the panel would consider the idea.
“We will address it and do what we need to do,” said the councilman, who added he’s been on several Cherry Point committees. “We’ll do something about it.”
During the afternoon public information session, the dark sky concept drew some support, including from Harkers Island resident David Heflin, a member of Crystal Coast Stargazers.
Without the “glow” of light pollution, he said, numerous stars that can’t be seen would be visible. And, he said, lighting only what needs to be lighted – not the sky – would cut down on energy use and thus costs.
He said his group is working with Cape Lookout National Seashore to reduce unnecessary lighting there and praised Bogue for hosting an information system and taking the idea under consideration.
The ECCOG also got some praise, by email, from Pete Strasser, technical director of the IDSA.
“You are doing a good thing for your community and we salute you,” he wrote in the email. “We appreciate your community taking an official approach to address the phenomena of light pollution and trespass.
“The military are one of many organizations seeing the problems associated with the unintentional misdirection of light.”
The ECCOG is one of 16 multi-county planning and development regions in the state. Regional councils are governed by local public and private sector appointments.
The councils are forums where local officials determine priorities for the larger area in which their communities are an integral part.
The eastern council’s area is 5,710 square miles and has a population of more than 645,000 people in Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico and Wayne counties.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.