NELPAG Circular No. 17

NELPAG Circular No. 17                                    1997 Sept. 15

New England Light Pollution Advisory Group (NELPAG)
Editor:     Daniel W. E. Green [Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory;
               60 Garden Street; Cambridge, MA  02138]  (telephone 617-495-7440)
Secretary:  Eric Johansson     (telephone 508-667-0137)

     "Subscription" to this irregular news/information Circular is available by
sending self-addressed, stamped (32 cents in the U.S.A.) regular-sized
(9.5x4-inch) envelopes (SASE) to Dan Green at his postal address, or by
sending your e-mail address to NELPAG-REQUEST@HARVEE.BILLERICA.MA.US (Internet).
Contributed information for this Circular concerning outdoor lighting problems
in New England (or pertinent info from outside New England) are always welcome.
Please circulate this newsletter to all interested parties.  Look at our
World Wide Web site at URL


     Six people were present on Saturday, May 17, to help mail out the
flyer to Massachusetts Sky and Telescope subscribers to alert readers about
the pending outdoor night-lighting bill in the State Legislature.  Bob Napier
drove up from Rhode Island; others present included Eric Johansson, Michael
Ratner, Tom Calderwood, and Dan Green.  In addition, John Small helped with
stuffing and sealing some 2000 envelopes on May 16 with an automatic machine,
saving hours of manual work.  We reached our goal in terms of contributions,
and were able to mail out flyers to all subscribers on the list.  We also
thank Kelly Beatty, Susan Lit, Eric Bloom, and Joshua Roth of Sky and
Telescope for kindly producing self-adhesive mailing labels for all of their
Massachusetts subscribers.  Donations of either stamps, envelopes, or cash
for stamps were also made by Boston Engineering Services (the largest donor,
at $250.00), Steve Willner, members of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston
($205.00 collected at their May 8 meeting), Dale L. Reid (Eau Claire, WI!),
Bob Napier, Michael Ratner, Tom Calderwood, Joshua Roth, John Small, John
Hopkins, Bob Wylie, and Warren Offutt (Cloudcroft, NM!).  If I've missed anybody,
I apologize sincerely.  But many thanks go to all of these volunteers and
donors, and let's hope that this bill gets passed as a result!  --- D.W.E.G.

     Shortly after the letters were mailed out to Massachusetts subscribers
of Sky and Telescope, one recipient called to say that there were problems
with the bill.  I thank Ed Wallner (Wayland, MA) for alerting me to some of
the following information, and it was he who sent me a copy of the bill and
the bill's recent history, which in turn was supplied to him by his state rep,
Susan W. Pope.  First the history:
     The bill was reported/referred to the Comittee on House Science and
Technology, favorably, by the Energy Committee, on 1997 May 1.  At this time,
a "new draft" of H3418 (the old bill number) was included.  The bill summary
for H-3418, available to all members of the legislature, has the old summary
wording, "This bill would require local governments to adopt outdoor lighting
ordinances", which could easily kill this bill; this outdated wording referred
to the original bill from a few years back.  Recent years' wording of the
bill have addressed state-funded lighting only.  This summary that I have
noted is an "internal" bill summary that state legislators can call up when
they want to know what a bill is about (and what its introduction/hearing
history has been), without actually reading the bill themselves.  That bill
summary for H.3418 was outdated by a couple of years, so that if any legislator
looked only at the summary and not at the actual bill, he/she would see
something that was entirely different from reality and something that might
immediately cause them to be against the bill (namely, mandating that cities
and towns install ordinances/bylaws concerning outdoor lighting, when
cities/towns do not like to be told by the state what to do).
     Now for the really bad news.  One problem is apparently unavoidable and
due to government bureaucracy:  the bill number is changed whenever it moves
to a new committee.  Thus, our bill H.3418 was confusedly changed to H.4449.
But worse actions had happened in the process.  About 20 words were deleted
from the old bill (H-3418) for the new bill, now known as House No. 4449.  But
those words are *the most important* words of the whole bill!  Thus, section
2.5 was changed from

   No state funds shall be used to install any news permanent
   outdoor luminaire or to replace an existing permanent outdoor
   luminaire unless the following conditions are met:
       1)  The new or replacement luminaire is a full-cutoff
           luminaire when the rated output of the luminaire is
           greater than 1,800 lumens;


   No state funds shall be used to install any new permanent
   outdoor luminaire unless the following conditions are met:
        1)  The new or replacement luminaire is greater than
           1,800 lumens;

This is actually WORSE than passing no bill at all; not only has the
"full-cutoff" language disappeared, but a high minimum level of lumen output
is mandated!  I heard that in the final editing and discussion of the bill
prior to reporting out of the energy committee, one or more individuals on
the committee were concerned about the meaning of "replacement" lighting.  How
on earth anybody could construe that this meant the replacement of all
existing lamps, I do not know --- but this apparently did happen.  The result
was what we now see, I am told.  The solution is to put back the original
wording in lines 3-8 of Section 2, and then add in a definition (section 1)
that "Replacement lighting" means any broken or non-illuninating existing lamp,
or something to that effect.
     I'm told by Rep. Marzilli's office that they are trying to re-instate the
original wording from H.3418; in fact, today Ellen Schneider of his office said
that things will again pick up on this and other legislation on September 17,
and that discussions between Marzilli's office and the Science and Technology
Committee indicate that the latter will change the wording of H.4449 back to
the original wording of H.3418 perhaps as soon as this week.  But we cannot in
ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM support H.4449 as it is was horribly re-written (above).
PLEASE, contact your state reps and senators and tell them to support the
outdoor night-lighting bill under the old wording of H.3418 AS IT WAS SUBMITTED
in December 1996 (not what was submitted earlier) and not the revised wording
in H.4449!  This is a perfect example of where the old bill number
should be retained and the new bill number deleted.  This makes the whole
legislative/democratic process very problematical, because one must be very
specific in this case as to which version of the bill is being supported.
If the wording of H.4449 *is* made the same as H.3418, *then* we can support
H.4449 (but only then).
     One official at the State House told me some weeks ago that the summary
to H.3418 (and H.4449?) has been changed now, but that may not change the fact
that old summaries are probably floating around in the offices of various
individuals at the State House.
     If you sent letters to your legislators and/or called them a few months
ago, please do so again now, in support of H.3418.  Tell them that it was
favorably reported from the Energy Committee to the Science and Technology
Committee last May 1, with the bill number changed to H.4449, but that some
wording was (supposedly inadvertently) thoroughly messed up so as to be
unsupportable, and that the original wording of H.3418 is going to be brought
back; ask them to support H.3418, and also H.4449 only if/when the original
wording from H.3418 has been replaced.  I know this is a pain and is awkward,
but we have no other choice if we want the correct bill passed!
     Note also that Massachusetts state legislators can now be looked
up on the World Wide Web at
  --- D. W. E. Green

     Thank you and all the NELPAG volunteers for your hard work on this
project.  It illustrates how the political process truly is a democratic
and grassroots effort.
     We are aware of the problems that you cited with H.4449.   Our original
bill, H.3418, left the Committee on Energy on May 1st with amendments as
H.4449.  It was then sent to the Committee on Science and Technology.  We
are working with the Committee on Science and Technology to correct both
the simple typographical errors and of course the gross omission of the
"full-cutoff" language.
     For the next few weeks the Legislature will be working on the FY98
Budget.  No action will be taken on the Dark Sky Bill until the state budget
is reported out.  We will continue working with the Committee on Science and
Technology to make sure that H.4449 is fully restored before it moves to
House Ways & Means and ultimately the floor of the House of Representatives
for debate.
     In the past week we have found out that the lighting industry is watching
H.4449 closely.  I will keep you apprised of any action there.  We want to
continue to work closely with you and with NELPAG to make sure that the
Dark Sky Bill is as strong as it can be before it reaches the House Floor.
We appreciate the publicity it has received through the NELPAG circulars
and now the Sky & Telescope mailing.
     Thank you again for all your efforts.
 --- Ellen Schneider, for Representative Jim Marzilli

     Friday, June 6th, saw the 3rd annual Vermont Historical Preservation
Conference in the town of St. Johnsbury.  An all-day event filled with
concurrent workshops on historical restoration, revitalization, and future
development in Vermont.   The workshops were touted as an open-forum design,
with speaker presentations followed by discussion.  On this year's agenda was
a program of particular personal interest called "Lighting Communities".  The
fact that Vermont is as-of-yet mostly unspoiled by poor outdoor lighting, was
reason enough for me to attend this workshop.  Not knowing what to expect, I
came prepared to contribute whatever I could --- if needed.
     After a short introduction by moderator/author Thomas Visser, the first
presentation was given by Burlington (VT) landscape architect Kathleen
Ryan.  Kathleen's slide-show-assisted talk was a culmination of a year-long
study by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) on outdoor
lighting.  Her presentation was incredibly in-depth and thorough, starting with
the history of electric lighting to where we are today.  A slide of "North
America at Night" was included to illustrate our current condition.  Types of
fixtures were discussed, graphs of comparative light levels and lighting
terminology were explained.  Very effective models of competitive business
lighting were used to show the need for light-level regulation.  Key lighting
issues were dealt with in great depth, like:  glare, the workings of the human
eye, color rendering, sky glow/effect on the night sky, signage, security
lighting, saving energy, etc.  As she wrapped up her presentation, she mentioned
that the complete study and recommendations were compiled as a full-color book
called "Outdoor Lighting Manual For Vermont Municipalities" ($25 for
individuals, $20 for community organizations; available from the CCRPC,
telephone 802-658-3004).  I picked up a copy, and I must say that it is the
best booklet of this type that I have seen yet!  It is an excellent "layman's"
primer for understanding the municipal benefits of preventing light pollution
--- I strongly recommend it.
     The second speaker was Alfred Holden, a preservation journalist from
Toronto who served in an advisory position for lighting design in the city.
His talk, "Seeing Communities in a Better Light", was sprinkled with the very
interesting history of civic-lighting design, and also dealt with the psychology
behind outdoor lighting throughout this century.  Alfred used slides to
demonstrate the lighting choices in the Toronto downtown area, and compared
similar scenes from other areas to illustrate the benefits and effects.  He
topped off his presentation by lighting a historical display of actual
street-light fixtures in the room, from the early incandescents to the modern
metal-halide street fixtures.  The newest street fixture shown was an internally
shielded, drop-lens (strawberry shape) that are being used throughout Toronto
(maximum wattage used --- only 70 watts!).  Alfred describes his design approach
as:  less light --- better visibility.  He is currently writing a book on street
lighting.  In this book, he is devoting a chapter to the detrimental effects of
light pollution on professional astronomy/observatories, and is looking for
information about this.  He would welcome any input at e-mail address
     By the time Alfred's presentation ended, the workshop had run 20 minutes
overtime, and there was no time for discussion.  All in all, I was personally
very inspired and hopeful for the state of Vermont by the amount of awareness
exhibited at this Conference.
 --- Bob Crelin []

     According to an article in the August 6 Woonsocket Call newspaper, the
City of Woonsocket (in northern RI) is going to have all of its 3258 street
lights replaced over the next five years with full-cutoff fixtures.  This was
announced by Blackstone Valley Electric (BVE) spokesman, Todd McLeish.  Not
only is the City of Woonsocket having its lights replaced, but all the
communities serviced by Blackstone Valley Electric in northern RI are going to
have full-cutoff light fixtures installed.  The reasons given for the
conversion are:  the full-cutoff lights use less electricity but produce more
light; drivers see just as well; and light is directed at the ground and does
not spill into the sky, causing light pollution.
     Bill Gucfa, a member of Skyscrapers (Amateur Astronomical Society of
Rhode Island), may have been instrumental in getting discussions started to
convert the BVE street lights.  He did start the City of Pawtucket, RI, on the
road to full-cutoff lights, but it has recently been stalled.  Pawtucket is in
the Narragansett Electric service area as is Scituate, RI, where I am meeting
resistance from Narragansett Electric.
     Narragansett Electric states:  "As for shielding, the cost is also $25.00
per light.  However, shielding is done only on a limited basis and a flat lens
is used instead of a shield."  They add that "...removal of lights is
permissible upon payment of the portion that has not been depreciated for
lights installed for a period of less than 10 years. .... The removal of lights
could aveage $90.00 each."  Also, they state "....discuss with your Town
Solicitor the possible liabilities of removing street lights.  There are many
legal precedence that have been established by the courts which could
unnecessarily expose the Town to legal action."
     Does anybody know of any such legal precedence as mentioned above in any
other communities???
     For some reason, as yet unknown, Narragansett Electric also stated that
full-cutoff fixtures were not available to municipalities.  Who else would
they be making them available too, it at all?  [This is the sort of problem
we're up against all over America!  -- D.W.E.G.]
     I expect to meet with a Narragansett Electric representative, the
Scituate Director of Public Works and two Scituate Town Council members to see
what can be done in the Town to curtail light pollution and the 20% over budget
problem ($90K budget; $108K spent last year).
  ---  Bob Napier, Skyscrapers, Inc., Scituate, RI

     I wanted to let you know that an outdoor-lighting bylaw that I authored
(with the assistance of materials [that NELPAG] provided earlier this year)
passed unanimously at Town Meeting in Townsend, Massachusetts, (population
9,000; 45 miles northwest of Boston) on May 6.  Ironically, I could not be
present, in spite of being the bylaw's chief advocate, because Town Meeting
conflicted with a long-planned vacation.  However, the Planning Board members
ably presented the bylaw with help of a handout and poster I prepared, with
photographs of good and bad lights in our town.
     As you will see, it is based on the Kennebunkport (Maine) ordinance, with
some minor wording changes that evolved during various meetings and a public
hearing.  One difference is that our bylaw does not apply to street lights,
because Town Counsel advised us that zoning bylaws cannot control the design
of street lights.  I have made and will continue to make an effort to educate
the Selectmen (who are responsible for street lighting) on full-cutoff lighting
and have also contacted the local utility (Fitchburg Gas and Electric).  We
currently have only 90 street lights in the entire town, so it's not too big
an issue right now.  Another feature of the bylaw is a section limiting the
use of recreational facility lights to no later than 11:00 p.m.; this would
apply even to existing lights.
     The positive response of people in this town to the lighting issue and the
unanimous vote at Town Meeting cause me to agree with you that good lighting
efforts could really take off.  I feel great about achieving acceptance of a
strong lighting bylaw in my town; I genuinely believe that Townsend will be
a noticeably better place to live.
     One problem did come up --- I wondered if you had heard of this before.
The proposal was reviewed by town counsel.  The bylaw is written as an
amendment to the zoning bylaws.  However, town cousel believes that a zoning
bylaw cannot regulate public street lights; only a general bylaw can do that.
The bylaw would then apply only to private lighting, including parking lots,
private subdivision roads, individual houses (if above 1800 lumens), etc.
This would still be a great benefit, as street lights are probably a relatively
minor issue here (there are 90 street lights in the entire 35-square-mile town
currently).  The idea then was to place a separate provision for public street
lights in the general bylaws (as opposed to zoning bylaws).  The bylaw we passed
in May requires all newly installed or replaced outdoor lights on private
property to be full cutoff and also imposes height limits.
     At the Sept. 9 Special Town Meeting, we had an opportunity to enact
additional restrictions on outdoor lighting.  The new restrictions are in
the form of a general bylaw that addresses public outdoor lighting, including
street lights, municipal buildings, schools, parks, and recreational facilities.
All public lights are now subject to the same restrictions as private lights
(i.e., they must be full-cutoff).
     The Board of Selectmen and Town Counsel had expressed concern about the
public lighting bylaw, because they believe the Selectmen are entitled to
discretion over street lights under state law.  There was also concern over
the perceived added cost of full-cutoff street lights.  However, I demonstrated
that other nearby towns (e.g., Harvard and Boxborough, MA) have and enforce
bylaws that restrict street lights as well as private lights.  I also
successfully argued that the incremental cost of the full-cutoff lights is
negligible ($20 each based on a phone inquiry to GE Lighting Systems), and
would be recovered in a few months by the lower electricity costs from using
lower watt lamps (e.g., using a 50-watt full-cutoff sodium-vapor lamp instead
of a 175-watt mercury-vapor drop lamp).  A phone call to our utility
(Fitchburg Gas and Electric) confirmed that they would be willing to stock
full-cutoff lights and would only charge us the incremental difference in
costs for installation.
     Both bylaws passed unanimously on voice vote at the two Town Meetings.
The text of the public lighting bylaw is attached.  Please contact me if
you want any other information.
  --- Mike Brown  []

            9.19  OUTDOOR LIGHTING

9.19.1      PURPOSE
This Bylaw is intended to reduce the problems created by improperly designed
 and installed outdoor lighting. It is intended to eliminate glare, minimize
 light trespass and sky glow, and reduce energy use of outdoor lighting by
 limiting the area that certain outdoor lighting fixtures can illuminate in
 the Town of Townsend.

9.19.2      DEFINITIONS:  For the purposes of this Bylaw, terms used shall
 be defined as follows:

     Direct Light:  Light emitted directly from the lamp, off of the reflector
 or reflector diffuser or through the refractor or diffuser lens of a luminaire.
     Fixture:  The assembly that houses the lamp or lamps and can include all
 or some of the following parts: a housing, a mounting bracket or pole socket,
 a lamp holder, a ballast, a reflector or mirror, or a refractor or lens.
     Flood or Spot Light:  Any light fixture or lamp that incorporates a
 reflector or a refractor to concentrate the light output into a directed
 beam in a particular direction.
     Glare:  Light emitting from a luminaire with an intensity great enough to
 reduce a viewer's ability to see and in extreme cases causing momentary
     Height of Luminaire:  The vertical distance from the ground directly below
 the centerline of the luminaire to the lowest direct light emitting part of
 the luminaire.
     Lamp:  The component of a luminaire that produces the actual light.
     Light Trespass:  The shining of light produced by a luminaire beyond the
 boundaries of the property on which is it located.
     Lumen:  A unit of luminous flux.  One (1) footcandle is one (1) lumen
 per square foot.  For the purposes of this Bylaw, the lumen output values
 shall be the initial lumen output ratings of a lamp.
     Luminaire:  A complete lighting system including a lamp or lamps and a
     Outdoor Lighting:  The illumination of an outside area or object by any
 man made device located outdoors that produces light by any means.
     Temporary Outdoor Lighting:  The specific illumination of an outside area
 or object by any man made device located outdoors that produces light by any
 means for a period of less than seven (7) days with at least one hundred and
 eighty (180) days passing before the device is used again.

9.19.3   REGULATIONS:  All luminaires for private outdoor lighting installed in
 the Town of Townsend shall be in conformance with the requirements established
 by this Bylaw.   The luminaire shall emit no direct light above a horizontal
 plane through the lowest direct light emitting part of the luminaire.   The luminaire shall be mounted at a height in feet equal to or
 less than the value 3 + (D/3), where D is the distance in feet to the nearest
 property boundary.  The maximum height of the luminaire may not exceed 25 feet.

9.19.4   EXCEPTIONS:   Any flood or spot luminaire with a lamp or lamps rated at a
 total of nine hundred (900) lumens or less and any other type of luminaire
 with a lamp or lamps rated at a total of eighteen hundred (1,800) lumens or
 less may be used without restriction to light distribution or mounting height
 except that if any spot or flood luminaire rated nine hundred (900) lumens or
 less aims, directs, or focuses direct light toward residential buildings on
 adjacent or nearby land or creates glare perceptible to persons operating
 motor vehicles on public ways, the luminaire shall be redirected or its light
 output controlled as necessary to eliminate such conditions.   Luminaires used for roadway illumination may be installed at
 a maximum height of 25 feet and may be positioned at that height up to the
 edge of any bordering property.   All temporary emergency lighting needed by the Police
 Department, Fire Department, or other emergency services and vehicular
 luminaires shall be exempt from the requirements of this Bylaw.   All hazard warning luminaires required by government regulatory
 agencies are exempt from the requirements of this Bylaw except that all
 luminaires used must be shown to be as close as possible to the minimum
 required lumen output for the specific task.

Nonconforming temporary outdoor lighting may be used upon issuance of a
 temporary lighting permit by the Building Inspector.

9.19.6   OUTDOOR RECREATIONAL FACILITIES:  Illumination of outdoor recreational
 facilities (public or private), such as, but not limited to, football fields,
 soccer fields, baseball fields, softball fields, or tennis courts, shall not
 occur after 11:00 p.m., except to conclude a scheduled event that was in
 progress before 11:00 p.m. and circumstances prevented concluding before
 11:00 p.m.

LUMINAIRES:   This Bylaw shall take effect immediately upon approval by the
 voters of the Town of Townsend at an annual or special Town Meeting.   Any luminaire lawfully in place prior to the date of this Bylaw
 shall be exempt from section 9.19.3 of this Bylaw until the luminaire is moved
 or replaced.

9.19.8   VIOLATIONS, LEGAL ACTIONS AND PENALTIES:   Violations and Legal Actions:  If, after investigation, the Zoning
 Enforcement Officer finds that any provision of this Bylaw is being violated,
 he shall give notice by hand delivery or by certified mail, return receipt
 requested, of such violation to the owner and/or to the occupant of such
 premises, demanding that violation be abated within thirty (30) days of the
 date of hand delivery or of the date of receipt of the notice.  If the
 violation is not abated within the thirty (30) day period, the Zoning
 Enforcement Officer may institute actions and proceedings, either legal or
 equitable, to enjoin, restrain, or abate any violations of this Bylaw and to
 collect the penalties for such violations.   Penalties:  A violation of this Bylaw, or any provision thereof,
 shall be punishable by a civil penalty of twenty-five dollars ($25), and each
 day of violation after the expiration of the thirty (30) day period provided
 in paragraph shall constitute a separate offense for the purpose of
 calculating the civil penalty.

Approved at Town Meeting 5/6/97.

     In the last Circular, the dating was a bit off on two of the items.  This
occurred because I usually do not sit down and compile a Circular all at once,
but rather add things to a Circular as weeks or months go by, and then issue a
Circular when I think enough things have accumulated (or there is something
really urgent to get out).  Thus, things often get dated, and an example occurred
in Circular 16 under the Plymouth item, where I said that it passed at the
Town Meeting at "last night's vote"; this was obviously written the day after
the vote was taken (the vote being taken on April 15).  Likewise, with Ellen
Schneider's item, the reader may have read "Monday" as meaning May 5, where in
fact it referred to April 28.  Just to set the record straight.  -- Ed.


The NELPAG supports the International Dark-Sky Association and recommends
that all individuals/groups who are interested in the problems of light
pollution and obtrusive lighting should subscribe to the IDA Newsletter
(IDA membership costs $20.00 per year; send check to
International Dark-Sky Association, 3545 N. Stewart, Tucson, AZ  85716).