BOCC: Public Input on Dark Skies Regulation

Board of County
Commissioners (BOCC)

-June 22, 2017

by Jackie Bubis, Reporter

The meeting started at 6 p.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call.Commissioner Jay Printz began the meeting by stating that, unequivocally, Dark Skies ordinances have been beneficial to both towns.  The BOCC sees this as economic development without impact.  The Board provided a draft resolution amending the County Zoning Resolution of 2016, written by County Attorney Clint Smith who is also vice-president of Dark Skies.

The meeting was opened to comments from the forty or so people in the audience.Jim Bradburn, president of Dark Skies, resident of Cotopaxi, Fremont County, spoke first as a “citizen of this valley” that the night-scape is our second greatest asset (after the mountain views) and suggested that the dark skies will only stay that way if we take action to put hoods on our lights.  He stated that Dark Skies (would pay for anyone who wants to change out their light fixtures.)

Several other Cotopaxi citizens spoke on behalf of our night skies.  One Cotopaxi resident said that most people will hood their lights voluntarily.Other citizens of the two towns and a few residents of the county also spoke in favor of the beauty of the night skies.

A number of people suggested that having a county-wide Dark Skies ordinance would encourage outsiders to come, spend their money, and leave.Several citizens spoke up with concerns about the proposed resolution.One rancher pointed out that his single yard light illuminates his livestock, his corrals and has saved his life in blizzard conditions.  He urged that, at the very least, the 80-acre zone be exempted from the resolution.Another citizen pointed out that the Board had a responsibility to the citizens of Custer County, not other counties, and not just to the citizens of the valley.  Mr. Kattnig pointed out that this resolution would only apply to the land between the crest of the Sangres and the crest of the Wet Mountains.  Mr. Smith corrected him by stating that, if passed, this resolution/ordinance would apply to the entire county.Former commissioner Shy asked several technical concerns.  How would the county know that a light had been changed – would there be a permit required?  Since this proposal will be in the compliance section, there will be charges possible against anyone who is not Dark Skies compliant.  He stressed that, while it was gracious of Dark Skies to pay for fixtures, that would have to be stated in the ordinance and he did not think that could be done.There was no one in attendance that didn’t want our rural county to remain dark.  The questions lay in whether an ordinance was required to insure that.  Many wondered at the growing movement by the BOCC to create laws because something bad may happen someday.Mr. Smith, county attorney and vice-president of Dark Skies (wearing his county attorney hat for this meeting) again stressed the process that would have to be followed for this to become law.  The BOCC would vote for it to go forward (in an early July BOCC meeting – watch the agenda) and send it to the Planning Commission (PC).  The PC would have public meetings and study the matter before making recommendations back to the BOCC.  The BOCC would then have to have public meetings before making the decision.Mr. Kattnig repeated that this proposal was only a draft and that the Board hasn’t made up their mind yet.Note:  This topic is on the agenda for the July 6th BOCC meeting.