Springdale Council considers lighting ordinance to become an International Dark Sky Community

The night sky seen from the Watchman Trail in Utah's Zion National Park. Undated | Photo courtesy of Avery Sloss/Zion National Park, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Springdale Town Council considered changes to its lighting ordinance aimed at making it an International Dark Sky Community at its Wednesday meeting, but tabled a vote pending more information.

File photo of Springdale Town Council members holding their meeting on June 9, 2021. Springdale, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The council also made the permit process easier for businesses making repairs from the June 29 flood during their monthly meeting at the Canyon Community Center. 

Among the changes to the lighting ordinance being considered are the addition of a curfew of 10 p.m. for recreational lighting and for businesses to turn off their signage one hour after sunset or at the close of business – whichever comes later. Also, all public lighting will need to have controls added that change the amount of illumination based on the time of day. Light fixtures will be required to be at a light color of 3,000 degrees Kelvin or less.

Businesses and residences would have a seven-year “amortization period” to be in compliance.

Both the council and residents speaking during the public comment section were divided on the new ordinance, especially on the costs to both the city and residents to be in compliance with the new ordinance. That uncertainty over the costs ultimately led to the council unanimously deciding to table the bill until the next session so more cost information can be gathered.

“Don’t get me wrong. I want a dark sky,” Springdale Mayor Stan Smith said during the meeting. “I’m just really concerned if this next step if it is getting too expensive.”

In a file photo, Springdale Mayor Stan Smith speaks during the Springdale Town Council meeting on June 9, 2021. Springdale, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Smith said he was especially concerned about businesses that just finished getting in compliance with the 2009 ordinance now having to spend additional funds to be in compliance with a new ordinance – costs that council member Adrian Player called “draconian.”

Resident Stewart Ferber, owner of three resorts in Springdale and the Marriott Fairfield Inn in Virgin, warned the council that not only will businesses find themselves with sticker shock, so will the city when it comes to changing street lighting to adaptive lighting. 

“I have adaptive lighting in my Marriott in Virgin, and I was floored by the cost of lighting,” Ferber said. “They work but they’re expensive.”

The revision to the lighting ordinance are mostly based on recommendations from the International Dark Sky Association toward earning the town a Dark Sky Community designation. Nearby Zion National Park recently was named as an International Dark Sky Park.

The last time the ordinance was revised was in 2009, with changes aimed at preserving a dark night sky. Springdale Director of Community Development Tom Danise said the changes are based on additional recommendations from association staff to bring the town into compliance.

During the public comment session, Eaves Inn co-owner Mark Chambers, a former Town Council member, spoke in support of the ordinance, saying it will be good for business. 

In a file photo, Springdale council member Randy Aton listens during the Springdale Town Council meeting on June 9, 2021. Springdale, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“The town has worked so hard for this. The citizens want this and it’s also good for business,” Chambers said. “Visitors come and say, ‘Where can we see the night sky?’”

Springdale would be the 32nd community in the world designated by the association and the third in Utah after Torrey – home of Capitol Reef National Park – and Helper in Carbon County. Ivins had previously pursued the designation in Southern Utah before abandoning the effort in 2019.  

Council member Randy Aton said the seven-year time before businesses would have to be in compliance with the ordinance is more than enough time to stretch out the burden of the changes. 

“It’s not like they have to go out tomorrow and get all these fixtures. They have seven years to work on this,” Aton said. “That is reasonable.”

After voting unanimously to table to ordinance approval, the council will reconsider the ordinance at a future meeting after more information on the costs of the new ordinance are compiled. 

Rebuilding from the flood

In a unanimous vote, the council approved taking some of the red tape out for businesses looking to repair damage from the June 29 flood.

Land use and permit reviews for properties damaged by the flood will get priority, and they will will also not require a public hearing of the Planning Commission, though the commission will still review the permits. 

Businesses will have until Nov. 1 to apply for permits under the flood-damage priority. When council member Lisa Zumpft asked why the period wasn’t longer, Smith replied, “If you need to wait until January to rebuild, maybe you don’t need to rebuild.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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