The new lighting fixtures are a bit too brilliant

I applaud the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ leadership in their efforts to reduce light pollution. Unfortunately, I live in the city, where my neighbors and I have real issues with the new LED streetlights the city has been installing this past year.

They do save energy, but the city appears to have purchased the fixtures with a “one model will suit every location” philosophy, and the model they’ve chosen is poorly designed and a source of light pollution. They may be effective on busy commercial streets, industrial areas and parking lots, but they’re harshly intrusive and inappropriate for quiet residential or historic neighborhoods.

The new lighting fixtures have 40 brilliant blue-white naked bulbs that are visible from an entire hemisphere of directions. This means they flood not only the streets with light, but also people’s gardens and homes. And they’re placed so high on the poles that they shine directly into even second-story bedroom windows, all night long — in many Asheville neighborhoods, that is often a distance of 60 feet or less.

The new fixtures could have been greatly and inexpensively improved if only they accommodated a short, 4-inch skirt to direct the light downwards onto the street alone, or had a simple plastic lens cover to soften the glare of the bulbs and warm the harsh, blue-white electronic light. But I was informed by the very responsive and sympathetic city streets department that such options are unavailable for the new lights.

In the historic districts, homeowners have to adhere to strict Historic Resources Commission covenants and receive “certificates of appropriateness” before making any changes to their neighborhoods, but apparently the city street department doesn’t have to comply. Hopefully this is just another case of one department of local government not communicating with another.

Budgets are tight, but if the city can’t afford a better design, or retrofit the fixtures they’ve purchased, perhaps, working with the HRC, they could choose a lighting fixture more aesthetically pleasing and appropriate to our historic districts, and then initiate an adopt-a-streetlight program, giving homeowners the option of paying the difference between the basic fixture and the optional one.

I for one would cheerfully pay for a streetlight that would enhance my home, instead of detract from its location. As it is now, I can’t leave my windows uncurtained after dark, or enjoy evenings in my garden, without suffering the sight of 40 naked, blue-white bulbs.

— Paul Huisking

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