Groundbreaking Albany County light pollution regulations are approved

The Laramie Astronomical Society and Space Observers (LASSO), is actively working to eliminate light pollution in Albany County. LASSO was able to work effectively with the Albany County Planning Commission and the Albany County Board of County Commissioners in formulating newly-approved land use regulations which should help halt, and perhaps even reverse light pollution in Albany County. LASSO is now working with the City of Laramie in an attempt to pass outdoor lighting regulations in the city, which is the source of most of the light pollution in Albany County.

Light pollution has effectively removed the Milky Way, our own galaxy, from the night skies over much of Laramie and in other parts of Albany County. To save our night skies, to promote public safety, to limit the public nuisance of light trespass and to save energy, LASSO has proposed certain anti-light pollution regulations, some of which have been put into effect by the Albany County Board of County Commissioners. These are probably the first comprehensive regulations restricting light pollution and light trespass ever passed in the state of Wyoming. LASSO thanks the Albany County Planning Commission and the Albany County Board of County Commissioners for their work on this issue.

The outdoor lighting regulations recommended by the planning and zoning commission and adopted by the county commissioners consists of an addition to the county's zoning regulations which regulate outdoor lighting. This was developed from earlier proposals at the June 16 and July 8 meetings of the planning commission. Click here for minutes from the June 16 meeting. There is a list of all links on this page at the bottom of this page.

The county also recently adopted a regulation on outdoor illuminated advertising signs. Following is a link to the recently adopted regulation on lighted outdoor advertising signs. Some of LASSO's original sign proposals, such as banning searchlights for advertising and aerial laser light displays, were moved from the advertising section of the regulations to the main outdoor lighting regulation.

The amendment to the county's current sign regulations (which are already more restrictive than Laramie city sign ordinances) includes a provision suggested by LASSO which states that advertising signs lit by external lights must be shielded so that all of the direct light falls entirely on the sign and that the lights are mounted above the sign and aimed down. The reason for this is that lights mounted below the sign cause up-lighting. They can also impair the vision of motorists. A good case in point is the ground-mounted lights shining upward on the flag at the tourist information caboose on south Third Street in Laramie. Motorists driving north on Third Street are blinded by the bright lights shining at them from under the caboose. Similarly, some lights aimed at billboards also shine in the eyes of drivers, especially when there is a gap between the ground and the bottom of the billboard. Glare from these lights can impair the vision of drivers and lead to accidents. Such unshielded lights can be seen by eastbound motorists just east of Laramie along the north side of I-80.

The purpose of the regulations is to shield bright lighting so that the direct light from the fixture shines only on the property where the fixture is located, rather than into the sky, or onto neighboring properties. The proposals also seek to prevent glare from lights near public roadways (such as dusk-to-dawn lights and advertising lights) from impairing the vision of motorists. The proposals also seek to stop "up-lighting." Up-lighting is light which goes up into the sky, rather than striking the ground. A standard dusk-to-dawn sodium vapor or mercury vapor security light, for instance, shines 45 percent of its light up into the sky. This causes light pollution, washing out the night sky and hiding the Milky Way Galaxy and many other stars from our eyes. In the worst cases, only a few of the brightest stars and planets can be seen. It also causes light tresspass across property lines, a nuisance.

LASSO's original proposals for curbing light pollution can be seen by clicking on this link. These original proposals, made in January of 2003, served to begin discussions among the members of LASSO, the county planning staff, members of the county planning commission, and Carbon Power and Light company on the subject of outdoor lighting regulations. As you can see, the original proposal is different than the current proposals. LASSO's original outdoor advertising sign lighting proposals can be seen by clicking on this link.

Link to Albany County's regulations on outdoor advertising lighting

Link to Albany County's outdoor lighting regulations

Link to a pamphlet explaining Albany County's outdoor lighting regulations

Link to minutes from the June 16 Albany County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting

Link to the agenda of the July 8 Albany County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting

Link to LASSO's original proposed outdoor lighting regulations

Link to a copy of LASSO's original proposals on outdoor advertising lighting

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