Charleston City Council to discuss possible light pollution ordinance

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 3:30 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2022 at 8:30 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A Charleston City council member is going to bring a possible light pollution ordinance up for discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Councilmember Karl Brady of District Five said the city can take steps to reduce its light footprint, which is a problem in both the urban area and residential areas.

“If you think of a street light in downtown Charleston that looks more like the old gas lanterns, those shoot light up into the air rather than down onto the ground, which with uneven sidewalks, with wanting to promote security, we can probably look over time at replacing those types of street lights with ones that actually shoot on the ground, and that will help the quality of life for residents especially downtown in apartment buildings and houses and that type of thing,” Brady said.

Excessive light, he said, is a livability issue. He compared a possible light pollution ordinance to a noise ordinance. He said if there are people that have excessive light on their homes, an ordinance would give a recourse for that.

“It’s a similar story, with if there’s too much light, it could disturb ability, or people’s ability to sleep. Which, we know especially in this city, not everybody works during the day,” Brady said.

As development in the city grows, Brady said that creates more opportunities for light pollution.

“As we have new development come online and apartment buildings, and that type of thing where they’re illuminated pretty much until, from dawn to dusk essentially, what does that producing for our neighbors, and how is that affecting them?” Brady said. “As we’re bringing new development online around the city, it really struck me as something we should think about.”

West Ashley resident Tom Berta contacted Brady because he said it’s hard to see the night sky here. Berta is part of a local stargazer club. He said excessive light affects the health and well-being of both humans and wildlife.

“It affects your sea turtles because sea turtles use your stars and moonlight to get out to the ocean,” Berta said. “If they see a streetlight, they’re gonna go to that and maybe cross a road and get run over.”

Berta wants the ordinance so that lights can be changed out to instead have fully shielded lights that face downwards, along with a lower Kelvin rating. He says an example of the downward-facing lights can be found at the Harris Teeter shopping center in the Bees Ferry area of West Ashley.

“We want to make sure that Charleston’s not just a great place to visit, but it’s a great place to live as well,” Brady said.

On Tuesday night’s council meeting at 5 p.m., Brady will bring the topic up for discussion. If the majority of council wants to pursue it, it will get referred to a committee. Then, city staff will take a look at what other cities are doing to determine best practices.

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