Green Scene

Light pollution is something many of us don’t think much about, but for stargazers, migrating birds and folks passionate about energy conservation, dark skies are a resource worth protecting.

Buncombe County will be approving new outdoor-lighting standards in 2012, particularly commercial and industrial lighting, and some local activists see it as an opportunity to strengthen light-pollution controls.

“It’s a very good ordinance, but there are several things that would improve it,” says Bernie Arghiere, president of the Astronomy Club of Asheville, who’s studied the proposal.

In its current form, the ordinance calls for “fully shielded down lighting” to limit the impact of big-box store parking lots (among others) on their neighbors. But under Arghiere’s guidance, the WENOCA Sierra Club will be asking the county to: regulate lighting on all new developments except single-family residential buildings; restrict all new dusk-to-dawn security lights (including those on single-family homes); and include a five-year sunset provision for all nonconforming dusk-to-dawn security lights.

The Buncombe County commissioners will consider the outdoor-lighting ordinance during their Jan. 17 meeting. The Sierra Club is encouraging its members to call or email the commissioners to indicate support for darker skies over Buncombe.

“We can’t stop growth,” notes Arghiere. “You’re always gonna have more light with more development.” But if the commissioners include the requested provisions, he maintains, “at least it wouldn’t be the glaring, intrusive, invasive light you have when you don’t use a shield.”

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