News Flash

Town News and Updates

Posted on: November 19, 2021

Outdoor Lighting Comes Into Focus

Street Light

The Town Council recently approved changes to the Town's outdoor lighting ordinances to help improve safety and assist with quality of life issues.

Street LightFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT: Matt Sheley at (401) 712-2221 or msheley@middletownri.com

 

OUTDOOR LIGHTING COMES INTO FOCUS

 

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (NOVEMBER 22, 2021) – Across a community, there are any number of items that can impact quality of life.

 

Litter, pollution, overcrowding, safety and security are a few that come to mind almost immediately. One that might be overlooked but can have a significant effect is outdoor lighting.

 

Aware of ongoing development across Middletown and its influence on neighboring properties – and the community as a whole -- the Town Council approved sweeping revisions to the Town’s outdoor lighting ordinances recently.

 

The goal was to help make Middletown even more livable while providing additional guidance to developers about what’s acceptable with outdoor lighting.

 

“The comprehensive plan calls for enhanced regulations to protect the night sky from light pollution and to reduce impacts of excessive lighting and glare on neighbors and motorists, particularly from commercial development,” Town Planner Ronald M. Wolanski said. “While the Town has required dark sky compliant lighting in new commercial developments for several years, this is the first regulation to address impacts comprehensively, including requiring that lighting in existing developments be brought into compliance when fixtures reach the end of their useful life and are being replaced.”

 

According to a recent memo from Wolanski, the council asked the Planning Board to review the community’s existing outdoor lighting regulations and make recommendations for improvements.

 

Wolanski wrote that Planning Department staff looked at recommendations from the International Dark-Sky Association as well as ordinances from other towns before moving forward.

 

Following that review, Wolanski wrote the stated goals of any revisions to the existing ordinances would be to:

  • Protect drivers and pedestrians from the glare of non-vehicular light sources.
  • Protect neighbors, the environment and the night sky from glare and light trespass.
  • Promote energy efficiency.
  • Protect the visual character of the Town.

 

Following lengthy review and discussions, what emerged from the Planning Board were sweeping changes to the Town’s zoning code, more specifically Article 27B, also known as the “Outdoor Lighting” ordinances.

 

A quick review of the document showed that much of the existing regulation was tweaked. In its place was an attempt to provide an easy to understand, clear set of rules that applied throughout Middletown.

 

Unlike before, the ordinance applies to all outdoor lighting in town, whether it’s on residential, commercial, industrial or public properties. The lone areas exempt from the new rules were single- and two-family residential properties.

 

Holiday and temporary lighting were also exempt as well as lighting required for an emergency, at the Newport State Airport, on construction sites, at Town permitted events and illumination solely for signs.

 

The new rules also place more emphasis on fully shielded fixtures and aimed in a way that doesn’t create glare for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

 

They also specify that on commercial properties, outdoor lighting must be extinguished no later than 30 minutes after a business has closed. Fixtures cannot be mounted more than 20 feet above the ground. There were also specific illumination limits set to prevent light bleed onto neighboring properties.

 

To check out a copy of the overhauled six-page ordinance and accompanying memo, visit https://mdl.town/OutdoorLightingOrdinance online.

 

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