The New Custer County: Change an Outdoor Light Fixture, Go To Jail

Commissioners Proposed “Dark Skies” Ordinance
Criminalizes Light

June 30, 2017 issue- Sangre de Cristo Sentinel

by George Gramlich,
News and Commentary

At a public meeting last week, the three Custer County Commissioners, Bob Kattnig, Jay Printz and Donna Hood, finally revealed their proposed “Dark Skies” or “light pollution” ordinance they have been talking about since the two new Commissioners (Printz and Hood) were sworn in this January. Note that there was barely a mention of it during the campaign last year.

The Commissioners’ proposal wants to amend the Custer County Zoning Regulation of 2016 to regulate outdoor lighting throughout the county (The Towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff have their own zoning laws.) They want to change the current non-enforceable, zoning law definition of “Light Pollution” to “Light Pollution defined as any adverse effect of the use of artificial outdoor lighting at night. See Section 8.2.G and Appendix D.3(p) for further information.”

The new Section 8.2.G reads like this:

“8.2.G: In order to minimize light pollution, all outdoor lighting shall be rated correlated color temperature of 3000 Kelvins or less, and any light source exceeding 500 initial lumens must be fully shielded. A “lumen” is measurement of the brightness of a particular light bulb or lamp. The following is a “lumens to watts” table:”

No need to print the whole table. (See Ordinance Proposal.) The first line is all you need to know. It says a light source of 600 lumens is equivalent to a 40-watt incandescent light (old school light bulb), a 10-watt florescent light and a 5 – 9 LED light. If my math is correct, any incandescent light bulb over 33.3 watts is subject to this ordinance.

8.2.G continues with “grandfathering” language:

“All outdoor lighting that now exists shall be “grandfathered in”: that is, such lighting shall not be subject to the restrictions set forth in this Zoning Resolution. All artificial outdoor lighting for new construction (residential, commercial and agricultural), shall be subject to said restrictions. Any condition or circumstance resulting in the replacement of a non-conforming light source that was “grandfathered in” shall require the installation of a conforming light source in its place. Any new or additional outdoor lighting installed on property that was otherwise “grandfathered in” shall also require the installation of a conforming light source.” The paragraph then goes on to say that you can’t close your open zoning permit unless your outdoor lighting meets these standards.

There were rumblings from the Commissioners over the last few months that this regulation would be voluntary with no penalties, but true to form for liberals, all behavior deemed to be against the “safety” of the state, shall be penalized, the Commissioners are proposing CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR NON-COMPLIANCE.

The criminal penalties for the new LIGHT BULB violations are found in Section 30-28-124 of Colorado Revised Statutes (which is incorporated into our Zoning Law). The most important section of it is this:

“Any person, firm, or corporation violating any such regulation, provision, or amendment thereof, or any provision of this part 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof,  shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars, or by IMPRISONMENT IN THE COUNTY JAIL FOR NOT MORE THAN TEN DAYS, or by both such fine and imprisonment. EACH DAY DURING WHICH SUCH ILLEGAL ERECTION, CONSTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION, OR ALTERATION CONTINUES SHALL BE DEEMED A SEPARATE OFFENSE.”  (The caps are mine.)

So, if the Commissioners insist on this insanity, and your old back porch light fixture goes bad, and run down to Home Depot and pick up a $20 fixture to replace it, and, you put a 40-WATT BULB IN IT, you have just become a criminal in the eyes of our wonderful, compassionate, Commissioners. Folks, 40 Watts is a Lightening Bug level light. If it’s there ten days before the Special Commissioner Light Police SWAT Team show up (‘cause your wonderful new neighbors from Berkeley, CA, just moved next to you and ratted you out), you could go to jail for 100 days and also pay a $1,000. This is liberalism run amok. Total totalitarian insanity. What planet do these three come from?

Driving around Custer County at night and viewing satellite night images of Custer County doesn’t seem to show anything a rational human being would call “light pollution”. Some lights on people’s front and back doors, an occasional pole light between a house and a garage, and some barn and pole lights for ranchers. Here and there. You know, it’s actually kind of nice. The bottom line is, is that there is no “Light Pollution” in Custer County. Plus, with the awareness by people building new houses here concerning the County’s desire to be “Dark Skies” friendly, you will see volunteer compliance to any sensible suggestions.

Education is the answer, not criminalizing normal behavior. Make the public aware that this is a nice thing to do, and the vast majority of people who VOLUNTARILY do it. Commissioners, get over the liberal mindset that us peasants need to be punished if we don’t do what you want us to do. You are here to GOVERN, not RULE.

We need to finish this article with a bit of true, liberal comedy. In the handout, the three RULERS of Custer County gave out at the at the Soviet style show-and-tell meeting last week, they had a propaganda section on “Why Restricting Light Pollution Is Important”. Their prime source for the reasoning behind this fiasco is, believe or not, the extreme left-wing American Medical Association, Al Gore nutcase level “scientific” propaganda that (incandescent) lights above 33 watts (which is a flicker, folks) “affect the normal circadian physiology of humans and mammals…. disrupt sleep patterns, and have serious physical consequences such as increasing the risk of diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, and other health problems.”  Beam me up, Scotty, my circadian thingy has been illuminated by a light bulb.

Education is the key folks, not criminalize everyday behavior. Time for a change.