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Three Minutes of Floor Time

Here are remarks I expect to share in three minutes of Privilege of the Floor at the Wednesday, May 9, meeting of the St. Joseph County Council:

As the county considers development near New Carlisle, please recognize there are significant implications for the night sky. I'm here to encourage sufficient but sensible light levels. I ask you to insist that all outdoor lighting be fully shielded with no glare; that outdoor LED fixtures have a color correlated temperature (CCT) below 3000K; and that unnecessary or decorative uplighting be prohibited.

Why should you care? Half of your life--half of everything that exists in the proposed development area--occurs from sunset to sunrise. Science recognizes that reckless lighting, while seemingly innocuous, impinges on the well being of humans and the entire natural kingdom--more than can be explained in three minutes.

Citing just one example, our new Indiana official state insect, the Say's Firefly, is best served with best lighting practices. Protecting the night protects the official insect of the State of Indiana.

Your insistence on good lighting throughout the County is not an imposing or unique demand. To its credit, St. Joseph County already leads the region in installing fully shielded streetlights, such as at new roundabouts like the Fir Road and Brick Road intersection--a job well done. Thanks go to County Engineer Jessica Clark and her colleagues for choosing streetlights that are dark sky friendly and best for the driver. Regarding good lighting, I suggest you give the same high level of thought to the communities that will evolve in the new project area. Mandate quality outdoor lighting.

On Monday, April 8, I drove around the area and wondered about the night sky overhead. How dark is the sky here? After an inaugural survey with Sky Quality Meters, I found the sky had a gradient with values around 20 magnitudes per square arcsecond.* That's what is at risk of being lost.

Members of the public are welcome to participate in a future run to quantify the darkness of the night sky--establish the "before" data, the baseline. See All Eyes on Boötes for details.

Unshielded light reflects off vapor cloud above an industrial site near New Carlisle, IN, giving a bright concentrated glow.  The same thing is happening with particulates in clouds higher up--the stray light is reflecting back down.

When the county adopted its lighting ordinance, Article 8.08.02, on May 10, 2005--and for full disclosure, I was involved in that process--areas deemed Heavy Industry got a pass. They didn't have to comply as rigidly with the spirit of the rules. Or it seems like the Planning and Zoning Chapter 154 Lighting Regulations regarding glare are not enforced. If you go out to the New Carlisle farmland at night, you'll notice the impact of that shortcoming. Look around. The dark horizon is interrupted by pockets of intense glare.

As it moves forward, the County needs to lessen vastly the extreme glare, even if the region is deemed Heavy Industry. Sustainable development requires that we think through all of the impacts of development, including those (like the night sky and nocturnal species) that are often ignored. Full cutoff lighting is readily available on the market--again, the County is already a leader in this category. The County should also find incentives for property owners to convert extant wall packs and high-glare lights into fully shielded luminaires.

And I'd be remiss not to remind you that all LED lights should rated below 3000K. **

In conclusion, I appreciate your considering the night sky in future development across all of St. Joseph County. Please continue to lead in the right direction. Thank you.

*For comparison, when the power failed in downtown South Bend ( the night sky over the city was about 17 magnitudes per square arcsecond. Because it's a logarithmic scale (, the farmland night sky is about 16 times darker than the urban night sky during a power outage. Similarly, Elbel Park is around 20 magnitudes per square arcsecond and Rum Village is about three times brighter at 19 magnitudes per square arcsecond. (Night Values) .

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