Ballots mailed out in Bandon lighting ordinance special election

BANDON, Ore.-- Bandon residents will soon recieve their ballots to decide whether or not an exterior lighting ordinance should be implemented within city limits.

The exterior lighting ordinance would make Bandon "dark sky compliant" and was passed by the Bandon City Council last year. Enough signatures were gathered to put the ordinance on the ballot.

"Any of the new lights we've put up for the last five or six years have been Dark Sky Compliant," said Matt Winkle, Bandon City Manager. "The idea is that you are not lighting the sky, you are lighting the ground."

Winkle, who said he is not speaking in favor or against the measure, but wants to offer voters information about their choice, said supporters of the ordinance see this as a means of reducing light pollution.

"Those who support this have made the case that they want to go out and be able to see the stars in the sky all around Bandon and that some exterior lights on someone else's property or lights put up by the city are shining to brightly on to their property," he said.

Winkle also said the ordinance would reduce harsh lighting from street lights that some local residents have complained about.

"The city has always recieved complaints from people living near street lights and flood lights that it was shining into their bedrooms while they were trying to sleep at night," he said. "This would help tone down those lights."

Winkle said the ordinance would require many exterior lights to be full cut off fixtures, and many exterior bulbs would be limited to 40 watts.

"What that means is that there are covers on the top of the lights so all of the light that comes out is directed on the ground where the light is supposed to be," he said. "[The city] has been putting in lights like those for the last five or six years."

But the ordinance would put limits on private property.

If you currently own property you will not have to make any adjustments to exterior lights on your home or business because they would be grandfathered in, Winkle said. Only when the time comes to replace them will the new lights have to be dark sky compliant.

He also said there are no new restrictions on holiday decorations.

But there is some push back against the new ordinance.

"This ordinance is a violation of my property rights," said Rob Taylor, Chief Petitioner for the referendum. "If people think they have a right to darkness, then I have a right to light. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see the stars, but when that impacts my property rights and my safety, then I have the right to speak out."

Taylor said exterior lights are not just decorative items that can be toned down without consequences. He said people install the lights on their homes, and cities install lights on dark streets to deter crime. Toning down those lights could create darker places for people to feel more relaxed about carrying out a crime, he said.

Taylor also said he should have the right to put any kind of exterior light on his property that he sees fit.

But there is also an environmental concern.

Taylor also said he is concerned about the possibility of Federal government agents taking on police like powers to prevent light from shining on the Bandon Marsh if the ordinance was passed.

"I'm very concerned about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service empowering themselves to enforce this law," he said. "If a non-complaint light shines on the marsh, are we going to have fish and wildlife fining citizens?"

Taylor said the only people enforcing the law, if passed, should be Bandon Police and city officials, but he feels there isn't a guarantee on who can enforce the ordinance.

Winkle said Fish and Wildlife officials did make comments about the ordinance and its impact on the nearby Bandon Marsh, but the ordinance would not in any way impact the Bandon marsh except through a possible reduction on the city lights glowing nearby.

Ballots were mailed out Feb. 22, and they are due back the night of March 16. Voters have two weeks to vote "yes" or "no" on the question.