For those of you who live in the City of Asheville, please let the Asheville City Council know that you do not approve of an exemption to the outdoor lighting ordinance recently granted to Ingles for a new grocery store/gas station in West Asheville along Smokey Park Highway. This exemption (granted by the Planning & Zoning Commission) would allow Ingles to illuminate its gas station canopy at levels that are 4 times greater than allowed by the city’s lighting ordinance!
This decision will go up for public input before the City Council this Tuesday (Feb. 22nd) at 5:00 p.m. In 2008, the city revised it’s outdoor lighting ordinance and set more restrictive (but hardly “dark-sky”) standards for the City. Ingles wants to completely ignore these. And this not only creates light pollution but also unsafe glare and loss of night vision — a leading cause of nighttime auto accidents.
To take action:
* Email Asheville City Council at: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov (Copy & paste the letter below into your email if you want to save time)
* Speak out at City Council’s public hearing on the Ingles conditional-zoning request on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, starting at 5 pm, fifth floor of Asheville City Hall.
Subject: Please say “no” to Ingles request to exceed our lighting ordinance
Madam Mayor and City Council members:
Earlier this month the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional zoning request for a new Ingles grocery store/gas station on Smokey Park Highway in west Asheville. Against the recommendations of the City’s Planning Department staff, the P&Z granted extraordinary exemptions to Ingles in this matter, especially in the area of outdoor lighting. Ingles will be allowed to illuminate their gas station canopy with 4 times the maximum allowed by the City’s outdoor lighting ordinance. This is unacceptable as there is no justifiable reason to have that much lighting and this exception creates an unusual precedent for other businesses to make similar requests.
Ingles’ reason for the exception request is for “visibility and safety”. Indeed Ingles would become the most “visible” gas station in Asheville. But the excessive lighting causes a loss of visibility and night vision as well as enormous glare and a risk to the safety of drivers at night. As drivers leave the gas station canopy with diminished night vision from the glaring light and enter the less illuminated highway, accidents are much more likely to occur. This is a common occurrence that everyone experiences when moving from a brightly lit location to a darker one at night. And this problem is more prevalent in the aging population.
It’s not clear why Ingles wants to light its gas station canopy beyond the generous allowance of 20 foot-candles in the Asheville ordinance — other than to increase its visibility to customers from miles around. All other gas stations in town will then want the same treatment!
Asheville’s allowance in its ordinance of 20 foot-candles for vehicular canopies comes directly from the IESNA (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America) recommendations. It is a national standard and not a dark-sky standard. Dark-Sky standards would allow less than 20FC, closer to 10FC. So 20 FC in the city’s ordinance is plenty of light, and it is the standard used by hundreds of lighting ordinances around the country. Brevard only allows 10 FC and Waynesville 15 FC for vehicular canopies. Asheville’s standards here of 20FC are not too harsh and provide plenty of light.
A quote from a study done in Vermont is clear: (page 8 of this linked .pdf file)
“Research compiled by the Chittenden County (Vermont) Regional Planning Commission on gasoline station lighting suggests that average illumination levels in excess of 10 foot-candles serve no purpose other than attracting attention to the site. The IESNA guidelines recommend an average illumination level of 20 foot-candles.”
The City must stand firm on the 20 FC standard as it is very generous and creates no hardship. Any light above this level only creates unsafe glare. The reality is that Ingles’ only reason for this request is to attract attention to its gas station and, ironically, the only “visibility and safety” that it creates is impaired visibility and a safety problem.
With P&Z granting such outrageous exceptions with no justifiable reasons, the City’s ordinances will become a sham, and many other businesses will be lining up for their chance to out-light Ingles.
Please do not allow Ingles this unsafe exception to our outdoor lighting ordinance.
Small Footprints is the author of Reduce Footprints, a blog about the easy ways that we can reduce our footprint on the earth.