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San Antonio North Blog

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio North Looks at the Area's Revised Dark Sky Lighting Ordinance

If you’ve heard about a “dark sky ordinance” in the San Antonio area, you may be wondering how it will affect you. If you live five miles or less from Camp Bullis/Camp Stanley, Randolph Air Force Base or Lackland Air Force Base, you could be affected. We’re going to take a look who might be affected and how—and why do we need an ordinance about dark sky lighting?

The good news is that your North San Antonio outdoor lighting company, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio North, is up to date on all applicable regulations. You can rely on us to use only the permitted outdoor lighting fixtures and bulbs when designing outdoor lighting for your residential or commercial property.

Will the Changes to the Military Lighting Overlay District Affect You?

The areas within 5 miles of Camp Bullis/Camp Stanley, Randolph Air Force Base and Lackland Air Force Base were already designated as a Military Lighting Overlay Districts (MLOD). The revised ordinance now divides each of these MLODs into two regions. The area three miles or less from each of these military bases will be zoned as a Lighting Zone 2. The area greater than three miles, up to an including five miles from each of these bases will be zoned as a Lighting Zone 3.

If you live in these areas, what does the revised ordinance mean to you? The lighting is less restricted in Lighting Zone 3 than in Lighting Zone 2. For example, outdoor lighting in LZ3 is allowed to emit a little more glare than in LZ2. In LZ3, a light on a post is allowed to be closer to the property line than the same light in LZ2. In some cases, the two different zones have the same restrictions. For example, in neither zone can you have light that shines upward, meaning a floodlight or street light must be shielded at the top and cannot emit light higher than a 90-degree angle.

Your existing outdoor lighting will not be affected as long as it was already legal. For any new development within these Military Lighting Overlay Districts, a detailed lighting plan is necessary when the developer or builder applies for building permits. The person preparing the lighting plan must certify that it complies with the requirements of the updated ordinance.

If your existing outdoor lighting fixtures need to be repaired, you can do that as long is the cost is not greater than 50% of the total replacement value. If the cost to repair is greater than 50% of the total replacement value, your lighting will need to meet the new regulations—if you live within one of these Military Lighting Overlay Districts.

Why Do We Need Dark Sky Lighting Ordinances?

By now you’ve probably heard of light pollution. It can be a problem for the military because it reduces the effectiveness of night vision goggles and affects nighttime flight training.

Local governments around the country, and especially in the southwest, are paying more attention to light pollution for other reasons, too. Excessive outdoor lighting can affect astronomy, obviously. In general, higher light levels create harsh glare, which reduces contrast and visibility, making it difficult for us to see clearly at night. It can also suppress melatonin production, which can disrupt sleep. In nature, artificial light affects pollination and as a result, fruit production.

Local dark sky lighting ordinances seek to minimize “light trespass”—light that falls outside the boundaries of the property on which the light fixture is located. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) have defined five Lighting Zones, the most restrictive being Lighting Zone 0, defined as “No ambient lighting.” This is the recommended default zone for wilderness areas, parks and preserves and undeveloped rural areas.

The International Dark-Sky Association encourages cities to adopt and enforce local ordinances that call for shielded, downward-pointing lighting, outdoor lighting curfews and other controls to conserve energy and minimize glare, light trespass and skyglow.

For more information about the work of the International Dark-Sky Association, go to http://darksky.org/.

Trust Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio North to install dark-sky-friendly outdoor lighting at your property. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Call us at (210) 876-1084 or email us.

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