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Keeping the lighting low in Campton Hills

Lighting outside Pizza Cucina in Campton Hills are examples of approved "dark sky"  lighting. The Village of Campton Hills has proposed a dark sky ordinance for all outdoor lighting at new commercial construction.
Lighting outside Pizza Cucina in Campton Hills are examples of approved "dark sky" lighting. The Village of Campton Hills has proposed a dark sky ordinance for all outdoor lighting at new commercial construction.

CAMPTON HILLS – When Mark Christensen first moved to his St. Charles home 30 years ago, he could see the Milky Way – albeit faintly – from his backyard.

“You can’t do that anymore,” the Fox Valley Astronomical Society member said.

Christensen chalks the disappearing night sky up to too much development but said the situation isn’t hopeless in Kane County with some effort.

Nearby Campton Hills is making that effort.

Five years after voters said they wanted the village to consider adopting a dark sky light ordinance, Campton Hills leaders have drafted a responsible outdoor lighting ordinance for new construction.

The Plan Commission recommended approval of the ordinance in January, but the Village Board has yet to act on the document. Village President Patsy Smith said last week that trustees are waiting for it to be reviewed by a professional.

Although the proposed ordinance is 18 pages, it can be summed up in three sentences:

• Shine the light where you need it.

• Don’t use any more light than you need.

• Turn off the lights when you don’t need them.

Trustee Sue George, who worked on the ordinance with Christine Brauer of the Plan Commission, said they wanted to keep it simple.

“It’s just common-sense principles that I think we could all benefit from, both economically as well as environmentally,” George said.

Researching and writing the ordinance took about four years, George said. They reached out to the Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting, she said, and they went to Homer Glen, which became an International Dark Sky Community in 2011.

The International Dark-Sky Association awards such designations to towns, cities and municipalities that have – according to its website – “shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of quality lighting codes, dark sky education and citizen support of dark skies.”

George said their research taught them that the dark-sky concept is extensive and goes beyond the ability to see more stars.

“Lighting is multi-faceted in terms of outdoor lighting,” she said.

The International Dark-Sky Association – which was founded in 1988 and the first organization to bring attention to the hazards of light pollution – summarizes the effects of light pollution on its website.

“Human-produced light pollution not only mars our view of the stars,” the site states. “Poor lighting threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms, and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone.”

Christensen said such a waste is ridiculous and a “horrible inconvenience” for anyone wanting to see different objects in the sky.

“The night sky is beautiful,” he said, noting the Green River State Wildlife Area near Harmon offers the best view within a reasonable distance from the Tri-Cities. If approved, Campton Hills’ proposed ordinance would help reduce light pollution by, among other mandates, requiring the use of full-cutoff light fixtures – fixtures that limit amount of light shining upward.

George said Campton Hills isn’t entirely unique in its efforts to preserve the dark sky.

“Communities are already doing it,” she said, explaining dark-sky lighting is used in such places as St. Charles Park District properties and the Cadence Fitness & Health Center in Geneva.

“It’s being applied everywhere. Until you know what you’re looking for, you don’t pay attention to it.”

Know more

The International Dark-Sky Association – the recognized authority on light pollution – has designated these communities as International Dark Sky Communities:

• Dripping Springs, Texas

• Isle of Coll, Scotland

• Homer Glen, Ill.

• Isle of Sark, Channel Islands

• Borrego Springs, Calif.

• Flagstaff, Ariz.


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