Council pulls plug on proposed lighting ordinance

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home City Council members last week indicated that they were not interested in adopting an ordinance regulating the use of lighting in residential zones.

During its regular meeting on Oct. 9, the council declined to continue its involvement in the development of a light ordinance. The Planning Commission had been working for about six months to draft an ordinance and then, seeking input, asked the council to attend a joint meeting a week earlier.

City staff members returned with information from other cities that have lighting ordinances. City Manager Craig Martin received responses from three cities that have or considered passing a light ordinance.

Of those, one enforced the ordinance by complaint only, Martin said. Complaints were referred to the police. The other two cities did not adopt an ordinance after considering doing so.

Community Development Director Carol Lewis said she received a response from Dundee, which has a “dark skies” ordinance. That city had received two or three complaints. City staff went out and talked to the offenders, who complied with the ordinance.

Lewis also checked Albany, Brownsville and Lebanon, she said. Lebanon was the only one with such a rule, and it was a single sentence.

Planning Commissioner Eva Jurney initiated the process after complaining about a neighbor, who had written that safety was the primary purpose for the outdoor lighting.

“I think that safety needs to be the number-one priority,” said Councilor Jim Gourley. The amount of lighting a property owner needs should be based on how the owner feels about his or her safety.

Some may need more lighting, Gourley said, and asked how the city could infringe on their rights.

Several councilors said they thoguht dark areas were danger zones.

Driving the Avenues, “if anything, I saw more dark spots that made me more uncomfortable,” said Mike Hall.

Councilor Greg Mahler agreed.

“I go up and down some of these avenues, and it’s dark,” he said. “It’s just an invite to burglars and thieves. I don’t think we need an ordinance. If we do, we’re opening ourselves up to safety concerns.”

Jurney told the council that the ordinance proposal was not intended to increase a person’s fear about security. She said she is concerned about light glare and trespass, and notes that the ordinances governing commercial zones and from wireless towers have language about not encroaching on nearby residential properties.

“What I’m hearing,” Mayor Craig Fentiman said. “The council does not want to proceed with this ordinance going forward.”

The Planning Commission could continue its own process and send an ordinance proposal to the council for consideration.

In other business, the council held the second reading of an ordinance that would, if adopted, regulate vacant and blighted structures.

Hall was concerned about a provision that regulates the color property owners must paint boards covering windows or doors.

The ordinance requires boards to be painted the same primary color as the house. Hall said he didn’t like telling property owners what to do on their property.

The idea is that when the ordinance requires them to paint the boards, they don’t wander into the garage and find a can of purple paint, Fentiman said.

He realizes it’s not going to look pretty by any means, Rodgers said, but if it’s a blue house, he thinks the boards ought to be painted some shade of blue to hep match the paint.

It’s not a lot to ask property owners to buy a $15 can of paint, he said.

It’s a way to make sure it’s not a color that stands out like a sore thumb, Martin said.

“I’m just hoping they have it boarded up,” Hall said. “I think it’s ridiculous telling somebody what color they have to paint it.”

n Heard a proclamation by the mayor declaring Oct. 20 to Oct. 28 Red Ribbon Week to show its support for a drug-free environment.