Islanders weigh in on streetlights

The discussion about Eastound streetlights is officially underway.

Fred Klein led a public meeting on June 30 organized by the Eastsound Planning and Review Committee and the Orcas Chamber of Commerce.

“We feel that low-level pathway lighting would be a positive addition to town,” said Chamber Director Lance Evans.

He said the chamber’s concern is with pedestrian safety, particularly on North Beach Road, as well as ensuring Eastsound is inviting to visitors after dark falls.

The meeting was intended to be a community conversation about whether or not to add street or sidewalk lighting, and if so, what form it should take and where it might be most useful. A small group of business owners and citizens was in attendance, but the majority consensus was that tasteful, environmentally conscious, low-level lighting would provide safety for pedestrians, encourage commerce in town and eliminate the need for glaring lights on Eastsound buildings. Several in the room talked about near-misses with pedestrians in crosswalks during the evening hours.

EPRC has prepared a slide show entitled “Eastsound Lighting Considerations,” which can be found here.

“I was initially concerned about over-lighting, but after doing research and talking to experts, it’s quite possible that any of these solutions might actually decrease pedestrians’ experience of glare. And we might have a decrease in energy expended,” said Charles Toxey, who owns Kangaroo House on North Beach Road.

Klein expressed dislike for the “misguided glare bombs” on some businesses. The group agreed that Eastsound building owners need to be in compliance with planning regulations. Marlace Hughes, who owns the Templin’s Center building, said she would be receptive to lighting suggestions.

The San Juan County Unified Development Code states that “exterior lighting should be energy-efficient and shielded or recessed so that direct hare and reflections are contained within the boundaries of the parcel. Exterior lighting shall be directed downward and away from adjoining properties and public rights-of-way. No lighting shall blink, flash or be of unusually high intensity.”

Klein said he is hopeful that proper streetlighting in town would eliminate the need for extensive lighting on buildings.

Kelly Rose was in opposition of lights in town, citing the “light devastation” she has seen in cities.

“I have ecological concerns,” she said. “There is also psychological impact to keeping the night sky visible.”

The next step is for EPRC to form a committee that includes representatives from the chamber, Orcas Power and Light Cooperative and the department of public works. Klein has been in contact with the Seattle-based Lighting Design Lab in Seattle, a nonprofit that provides consultation to communities on lighting issues.

“I think the big take-away [from the meeting] is that the direction we’re heading is not towards anything akin to traditional ‘street lights,” Klein said. “Rather, it is to provide some kind of lighting in the public realm that respects the principles of the ‘Dark Sky’ movement and address pedestrian safety issues at several key intersections.”