OC Lighting Changes Move On

OCEAN CITY – As a result of a few problem properties in town, government officials are looking to become more restrictive on lighting standards.

“The staff and the planning commission has been working on improving our outdoor lighting standards for a couple months now,” Planning and Community Development Director Jesse Houston said.

Houston explained the current code states, “all focal lighting including exterior lights, parking lot lighting, and lighting necessary for the safety and protection of property shall be controlled and focused within the property lines of the premises to minimize glare on adjoining properties.”

“We have found problems in a couple circumstances lately so what we’ve tried to do is put more definable standards into our lighting requirements,” he said.

One problem property that has been creating issues for its neighboring properties is the Rivendell on 81st Street. The Mayor and City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission have been working with neighboring property owners in having the Rivendell’s glaring lights minimized, but the Fire Marshall has concluded that the building’s lighting installed in its parking garage and balconies meet the code.

Houston said the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approach to the lighting ordinance is not to create it to be over complicated or over restrictive but the recommendations in the proposal are essentially based on engineering standards.

According to Houston’s presentation, the purpose of the proposed lighting standards is to protect public health, regulate intensity and location, reduce light trespassing on neighboring properties, reduce glare on streets, promote energy efficiency, improve the view of the night sky and ensure adequate lighting for visibility and security.

The lighting standards apply to all outdoor fixtures installed after the adoption of the ordinance and they do not apply to the downtown overlay districts.

“It [downtown districts] has its own lighting standards that are already in the code,” Houston said. “The existing standards for downtown are less restrictive because of the commercialization.”

He added that existing nonconforming lighting will not be required to change upon approval of the ordinance unless the lighting affects safety standards or if an opportunity arrives where lighting is to be replaced.

The general lighting standards include outdoor lighting must be controlled and focused within the property lines of the premises to minimize light trespass and glare, lighting may not exceed 0.2 footcandles measured at the property line of the light generating property, exterior lighting must be fully shielded so all light is projected below the horizontal, up-lighting should be avoided, and National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) life safety code requirements must be met.

“With regards to egress emergency lighting, they would override anything this would not,” Houston explained of the NFPA requirements.

The special application standards include under canopy lighting must use flat lens full cutoff fixtures aimed straight down and shielded, lighting of vertical surfaces must be shielded and focused onto object being lit, bayfront and oceanfront lighting not subject to the 0.2 footcandle limit on the waterfront property line however light source must still be shielded from view by nearby properties, lighting may not exceed 2.0 footcandles at a private property line but may exceed the 0.2 limit, and illumination levels for other special applications may exceed the standards with approval by the appropriate approval authority when a higher level is recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA).

Exceptions are public street lighting, construction areas, emergency situations, temporary holiday lighting, temporary outdoor lighting as approved by the Mayor and City Council, and fixtures producing 1,000 lumens or less, or equivalent to 75 watt bulbs may be unshielded but property line limitations must be met.

Prohibited lighting is laser source lights, strobe lights and similar high intensity flashing lights except as required by law, search lights used for advertising, entertainment, or to attract attention, and lights producing glare hazardous to motorists.

“I hope the councill refers this to the Fire Marshal because NFPA life safety code requirements must be met,” Council President Jim Hall said. “Well then you might as well throw this ordinance in the trash can because he’s [Fire Marshal] telling you the lights are barely enough to illuminate the driveway or walkways and we’re telling you it looks like a cruise ship pulled up on 81st Street.”

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said that she is not against the proposed ordinance but she wants to let the public know that the new law will call for additional costs in construction.

The council voted unanimously to have the City Solicitor Guy Ayres prepare the proposed lighting standards into ordinance form.

“Rivendell has given us an example of what we need to do here … and I’m happy to see this happen,” Pillas said. “I’m not expecting a cure all, but I just don’t want people to think we can get that far to make it not have a glare-this is a resort town.”

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