Mono entrenches its stand against light pollution

February 22, 2024   ·   0 Comments


Mono council is taking steps against light pollution.

Councillor Elaine Capes introduced a motion during council’s meeting on Feb. 13 that pertains to outdoor rural lighting.

She said residents need to be cognizant of how light can “trespass” from one property to another.

“Driving around, currently, there is a lot of what I would call light pollution and impact to our night sky which we claim as being something we want to preserve and protect,” she said.

“I think lighting is getting out of hand and some of it is trespassing on other properties, even as far away as from one side of the road to the next.”

The municipality already has a Community Standards Bylaw that has a provision for light regulation.

It holds that “no owner of a property shall cause or permit an outdoor light to shine directly into the living or sleeping areas of an adjacent dwelling or onto a highway. Outdoor lighting shall be shielded and affixed with full cut-off fixtures to minimize light trespass to the night sky.”

Mono also has a Corporate Lighting Policy with the stated purpose of enhancing public safety and welfare by providing adequate and appropriate outdoor lighting. The policy is to provide lighting that will complement the character of the town, reduce glare, minimize light trespass, and reduce the cost of unnecessary energy consumption.

The town’s Official Plan touches on how the municipality’s beauty extends to the night sky. As such, there are directives for residents to “control on-site lighting to those levels necessary to ensure public safety and security and to screen such lighting to minimize the overspill of light onto adjacent lands or into the night sky.”

The plan also states that the maintenance of the night sky is a priority for the Town of Mono. Council will ensure through public investment in lighting and through the review of development applications that light pollution is minimized.

As per Capes’ motion, she’d like council to “commit to amending the town’s bylaws and policies to expand the outdoor illumination requirements for rural properties to align with the purpose of the Corporate Lighting Policy to specifically provide for lighting that will complement Mono’s character and minimize light trespass.”

Deputy Mayor Fred Nix said he thought existing bylaws that pertain to the issue were already quite extensive.

“I’m not sure what we’re adding to our current bylaw,” he said. “That’s the part I don’t understand.”

“I leave it to the experts to reword the bylaw,” Capes said.

“Do we more have a policy than we have a bylaw?” said Mayor John Creelman. “Community standards, presumably, comes into play.”

Fred Simpson, the town’s clerk, said there is a community standards bylaw that’s fairly restrictive. Its goal is to protect a neighbour, he said.

“So light shining directly into a window of an adjacent home as opposed to protecting the rural character or the broader night landscape,” Simpson said.

Mono also has a policy, but that applies to industrial, commercial, and institutional operations and development that are controlled through site plan submissions.

“It doesn’t apply to residential,” he said.

Nix said he doesn’t understand how the town would control light. You install lights in your driveway that aren’t bothering neighbours, so what is the bylaw extension going to do?

Simpson said the bylaw extension would likely involve things like measures that ensure light is projected in the intended direction.

“I suspect a lot of the bylaw would address issues like that,” Simpson said. “But further research clearly needs to be done before staff can bring anything back to council.”

Capes said the idea behind the bylaw retooling is to ensure the night sky policy is respected and to be clear on what is suitable for rural landscapes.

Coun. Ralph Manktelow asked how light that complements the town’s character would be defined.

Michael Dunmore, the town’s CAO, said site plan applications submitted to the municipality are sent to a lighting and electrical engineer to determine what is suitable for those plans. He said guidelines are required to make such a determination.

The character of the town also needs to be clearly defined.

“It’s similar to what is bad noise and what is good noise,” Dunmore said.

“I think more people would generally agree that rural areas are not over-lit,” Creelman said. “There’s safety light, obviously, security lighting but there shouldn’t be gratuitous lighting.”

Lighting should be baffled so it doesn’t spill onto neighbouring properties or straight up and become light pollution.

“I think some of the definitions that could come from an attempt to define rural character would maybe address some of those things,” he said.

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