You might not believe that outdoor home lighting could ever be the subject of controversy, but in East Hampton, New York, it has been just that. In 2006, the town approved requirements for exterior lighting in order to preserve both its untouched, beachy character and residents' views of the unfiltered night sky. In 2012, just before the deadline for compliance with that law, a revised version of the code was proposed by town leaders, who have been debating the code since.
The combined issues of light pollution and energy-efficiency needs presented a unique challenge for East Hampton in its quest to remain a quiet, small resort destination. As we all know, LED lights, the most commonly used solution to reduce electricity use, often produce light of a higher color temperature (on the blue end of the UV spectrum). Additionally, some exterior lighting is positioned horizontally to illuminate driveways, sidewalks and other areas, rather than pointing down from above - causing further light pollution.
Hence the regulations championed by the Dark Sky Society, an organization dedicated to preserving starry nights on Long Island. East Hampton's code is extensive though not overly prohibitive. Homeowners were able to grandfather in certain fixture designs, as well as continue to install many types of traditional exterior lighting fixtures, provided that they are either fully shielded - they emit all of their light below the horizontal plane - or emit fewer than a specified amount of watts.
Next week, the East Hampton Star reports, a Town Hall meeting will be held to discuss the timeframe and stipulations that will be applied to the commercial lighting provision of the updated code. Currently, property owners must replace non-compliant lighting within three years of the regulation's passage, but next week's debate could give individuals up to two more years to make the appropriate changes.
As lovers of light, we appreciate both starlight and the warm glow from our fixtures. We hope that East Hampton will be able to maintain both as it finalizes these standards.