Grandfather Issue Clouds Outdoor Lighting Code

OCEAN CITY – A new outdoor lighting code for Ocean City has passed first reading, but it was sent back to city officials to discuss the ordinance’s grandfathering effect in regards to existing problem properties.

The Mayor and City Council voted unanimously last month to have an outdoor lighting ordinance drafted to set the guidelines for future construction to eliminate intrusive lighting from one building to another. The council decided on Tuesday night to pass the new law on first reading, but sent it back to discussion over a concern regarding its grandfathering effect before the required second reading.

Planning and Community Development Director Jesse Houston explained the ordinance would protect existing properties from having to conform with the new outdoor lighting regulations unless new lighting fixtures were installed causing the property to become non-conforming, at that point the town could step in.

The concern of having a property’s outdoor lighting grandfathered returned the never ending issue regarding the Rivendell property on 81st Street. The building’s neighbors, for instance, the Bay Princess, have constantly complained over the Rivendell’s intrusive lighting although the Fire Marshal’s Office has concluded that the building’s lighting installed in its parking garage and balconies meet the code.

“I don’t think the Rivendell situation has been settled, I don’t think its proper, and I think what’s up there is very cumbersome and a nuisance to the neighbors,” Council President Jim Hall said.

Hall added that that he finds it unbelievable that the Rivendell developers can’t find a way to eliminate the glare by changing the wattage of the light bulbs, shielding the light or changing the fixtures.

“I would hate to see that grandfathered and say to the people at the Bay Princess ‘screw you, I’m sorry but now their grandfathered in and there’s nothing we can do about it,’” Jim Hall said “They are still very, very bright and very, very intrusive onto the Bay Princess.”

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas pointed out that if there were some kind of outdoor lighting code in place prior to the Rivendell then the property would have never been an issue.

“We need a lighting plan for what is coming down the road, we got to do that,” she said.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres said the ordinance is capable of having the grandfathering effect removed all together, but it is not fair to have the Rivendell property included as the only exception from being protected.

 “I don’t think this ordinance makes a difference with Rivendell, this ordinance needs to move along because it addresses future properties,” Councilman Joe Hall said.

The City Council voted to pass the outdoor lighting ordinance on first reading in a 5-2 vote, with Jim Hall and Pillas in opposition.

Houston said if the ordinance were to eliminate the grandfathering effect of existing properties concerning their outdoor lighting, town enforcement of conformity would have to be conducted on a complaint basis, as it is done now.

“We can’t go out there and look for every non-conforming light fixture,” he said.

The general lighting standards of the ordinance 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.

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.

A lighting plan will have to be submitted with any application of a site approval. The plan must be of sufficient detail and may include a minimum photometric plan showing the intensity of illumination at ground level throughout the property including all property lines.