Tag Archives: BOCC Dark Skies

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. 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.

March 7 BOCC Meeting

Dark Skies for All the Valley?

Board of County
Commissioners (BOCC) Meeting
March 7, 2017
—Westcliffe, CO
by Jackie Bubis
The meeting started with the Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call. Introductions of the public in attendance followed.
The room overflowed with members of the public wishing to make their views known.
The first man to speak stated he was bringing to the Board some of the perceptions “out there” in the public, particularly against Commissioner Kattnig.  His main concern was for Roger Squire not even getting an interview for the road boss position.  Mr. Kattnig stated that everyone has complained about the roads and the Board needed to go in a new direction – one based on business principles. Mr. Kattnig also explained that the Board used a Colorado State entity, Workforce, to help review and rank the job applications for Road and Bridge supervisor position and that Mr. Squire’s application was considered, However, they only interviewed the top three applicants. Commissioner Printz stated that, had it been up to him, he’d have fired Mr. Squire for egregious violations but that Mr. Kattnig talked him out of it.
There was a brief discussion of when and how the commissioners could be together.  When asked if the commissioners did, in fact, drive to Denver together to meet with the CSU Chancellor, they admitted doing so, saying that Attorney Smith advised them it was okay.  Smith responded that he had advised them to not discuss business with each other or with a member of the public when together.
The ensuing discussion with regards to the termination of Robin Young was reported on last week’s front page story.
The meeting progressed according to the agenda once the public comments were complete.
Commissioner Items:
Commissioner Hood reported on the Wetmore building meeting.
Mr. Kattnig reported on the March third presentation by the Custer County Economic Development Corporation with regards to six potential sites for broadband towers.  He then made a comment to an unspecified person who has referred to this project as “socialism broadband” and that maybe we have “socialism road and bridge.”
He also reported that the Wetmore building is $50K over budget at this point.
Mr. Printz reported a meeting with the Early Childhood group, Recycling and the Water Commission.
Attorney Items:
Mr. Smith brought to the Board the talking points the Board requested on a Dark Skies ordinance that would affect from the top of the Sangres to the top of the Wet Mountains.  Enforcement of such an ordinance would be through the Planning and Zoning Office.
Charles Bogle, from the Custer County Economic Development Corporation approached the Board requesting their support in an upcoming grant for strategic planning.  There was no county money requested at this time and no action taken.
Proposals for the next phase of the Underfunded Courthouse project were received from Anderson Hallas, Ben White of Crested Butte and Steve Weidner of Pueblo.  Mrs. Hood was unable to reach Wells Squire regarding the expectations of the county surveyor.  Mr. Smith informed her that some of the work she had ordered to be done by County Surveyor Shy were outside the parameters of his job without compensation.  Mr. Weidner was present and the Board allowed him time to speak about the project.
Mike O’Rourke, Chief Probation Officer, addressed the Board regarding Gateway to Success using the annex building for DUI classes.  He spoke favorably of the proposal.  The Board passed a motion to allow the use of the annex building for these classes on Fridays. When the topic arose that Gateway to Success is a for-profit organization asking for rent-free use of a county facility, Mr. Kattnig said he felt it was appropriate to work with the courts to meet the obligation to provide treatment.
Staff Reports:
Beth Green from Public Health gave the monthly report.  The Board has extended the deadline for applications for the Public Health Nurse position due to poor response.  Mr. Printz expressed concern that the county isn’t offering enough money for the position.  Ms. Green responded that certainly they could make more elsewhere.
The Road and Bridge report, given by new Road Boss Gary Hyde, included a plan to raise wages across the board in his department.  The Board requested a fuller set of figures which would reflect benefits and workman’s compensation before they could make any decisions.  The raise would not exceed the R&B budget.  Also, Mr. Hyde requested permission to purchase a tilt-bed trailer for taking patching material where it’s needed.  He will get two more bids before a decision can be made.
Tim Swartz gave the Veteran’s Services report.  He had 67 visits in February and now has 341 veterans in his database.  The Board approved a proclamation be written for Anna Orgeron for all her work for vets in the area.  Anna will be moving back east later this Spring.  Swartz will work with some of his veterans to spruce up the landscaping around the VSO and put in a garden.
Laura Lockhart from Human Services brought her report to the Board.  She also requested that when work is done on the court house, her office could use a bit more room.  She had some suggestions for how that could be accomplished and the Board took her comments under advisement.
Office of Emergency Management Cindy Howard gave her monthly report.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:37 p.m.