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Sep 23, 2009 1:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board holds hearing on proposed dark skies law

Sep 23, 2009 1:40 PM

The Southampton Town Board is taking aim at people using excessive outdoor lighting that annoys neighbors.

The legislation seeks to reduce light pollution and prevent bright outdoor lighting fixtures from irritating other residents. It would require property owners to purchase energy-efficient lighting and properly shield the light to reduce glare.

Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, the sponsor of the legislation, said before a public hearing on Tuesday that the proposed law would impact residential and commercial property owners with outdoor lighting. The law would not apply to holiday lighting, she said.

“By reducing the wattage [of lights], some of these quality-of-life issues should be able to be addressed,” Ms. Graboski said. “There is a lot of support in the community for this.”

The legislation is based on other “dark skies” legislation already in place in towns including Brookhaven, Babylon and Huntington, she said.

“These provisions that we hope to put in place, they are not unique, they are not unusual,” Ms. Graboski said. Southampton Town “is a bit behind” other towns with the legislation, she added.

A sticking point in the legislation is the length of the grace period that property owners should have to come into conformance with the law. Coming into compliance means property owners would be required to install energy-efficient lighting when replacing, repairing or relocating fixtures. Current versions of the legislation call for a grace period as long as 15 years before property owners would be forced into compliance.

At Tuesday’s public hearing, the sixth hearing since the legislation was first introduced in June, speakers seemed to favor a shorter grace period for compliance.

Tim Rumph, a member of the Southampton Business Alliance, said property owners should be required to comply with the law immediately after it is enacted. “The business alliance is in support of dark skies legislation,” Mr. Rumph said.

Jen Hartnagel, an environmental advocate with Group for the East End, which has more than 3,000 members throughout eastern Suffolk County, spoke in favor of a five-year grace period, but argued against a 10- or 15-year grace period. “We don’t feel that those schedules are going to work in a timely fashion,” Ms. Hartnagel said. “It needs to happen sooner.”

Ms. Graboski said she is not committed to a certain grace period. “What that number is, if any, remains to be determined,” she said.

A seventh public hearing on the legislation was set for October 22.

CPF Audit

A financial consultant has released a year-end audit of the town’s Community Preservation Fund spending for 2008, giving an “unqualified opinion,” or a clean report, of the town’s CPF spending practices.

The CPF was created in 1999 and is funded by revenues from a 2-percent real estate transfer tax. The money is used to purchase farmland and open space.

In the report, BST Financial and Management Consultants of Albany said the transfer tax raised $33.9 million in 2008, while the town spent a total of $72.2 million. Of the total expenditures, $38.3 million was CPF money held over from 2007 to fund purchases in 2008.

“There was no mismanagement of the program—it is very well run,” BST Manager Anton Mirtschev said. “Funds are only being expended for their intended purpose.”

The audit was delayed several months and missed an April 30 deadline for submission to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office. The delay was in part because of an ongoing audit of transactions in the town’s capital fund, which includes the CPF fund. The results of the capital fund audit are expected to be released later this month.

Trail Map

Outdoor enthusiasts will soon have an interactive map of the town’s complete trail network available right at their fingertips.

Geographic Information Systems Manager Ross Baldwin said the interactive map, which includes a host of special features, will be made available on the town’s website in October.

Mr. Baldwin, himself an avid hiker, with the help of two assistants, collectively walked all 282 miles of Southampton’s trail network. They traced the layout of the trails using hand-held global positioning system equipment.

“The trail map is something we have worked on for a long time,” Mr. Baldwin said, noting the project began five years ago.

The map has features that allow it to be viewed in three modes—topography, base map and satellite view. It also has an identifying tool for trail names, bookmarks for popular parks and a customized print function.

He hopes the map will raise awareness among residents about the hiking possibilities in their local community.

The map “makes it apparent how many trails there are in Southampton,” Mr. Baldwin said. “It’s pretty wild out there.”

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southampton town doesn't even fix there own outdoor lighting and there worring about tax payers lighting.dark skies has patents on the energy efficient lighting fixtures and lamps and they can not wait to rake in the bucks.
By asurest (117), easthampton on Sep 27, 09 4:16 AM
No, you are wrong: the East Hampton Dark Sky Advocate is NOT making money from these laws. The money to be "made" is when people conform to the law: it saves energy, money, and the environment while providing better lighting for safety.
By Dark Sky (1), east hampton on Oct 4, 09 1:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you East Hampton for being so progressive and a great example. I know your lovely community through visiting my sister-in-law at her home. You can imagine how hopeless it seems combating light pollution in Chicago. Chicago is the poster child for light pollution... and yet there are Chicagoans who fervently believe we STILL don't have enough light in this city.
I wish my community had light trespass laws. Folks here are unaware that their security lights often stop within the bedrooms ...more
By Audrey Fischer (3), Chicago on Oct 17, 09 8:09 PM
Asurest, Dark Sky (east hampton) is right. Int'l Dark Sky (IDA) does NOT have patents on lighting. They review lighting fixtures to decide whether or not they deserve an IDA seal of approval for being dark-sky friendly lighting. This is to assist consumers in making an informed decision.

What ticks me off is the lighting manufacturers who rake in BIG BUCKS with BAD design, and know it, and STILL peddle it to residents, businesses and villages. Manufacturers say, they will stop making them, ...more
By Audrey Fischer (3), Chicago on Oct 17, 09 8:29 PM