Can you imagine being punished for having the wrong type of lighting on your front porch? It may sound silly, but it’s now a possibility in one part of Utah. In June, the Weber County Commission passed a new lighting ordinance that imposes a number of different lighting regulations on homes and businesses in the area.
The ordinance includes onerous restrictions like light curfews and requiring outdoor lighting on most non-residential structures to be shut off by 10 pm. Additionally, outdoor lights must project only downwards so as to not omit too much “light trespassing.” (Yes, that’s a term they used in the law.) It also specifies the specific color of lighting that is permitted. On top of all of the rules, the ordinance creates a new “dark sky committee.”
The overall purpose of this ridiculous measure is to “promote the community character of the Ogden Valley” and “promote the health, safety, and general welfare of Ogden Valley residents and visitors.” Transparently masked in the name of public safety, this is yet another unnecessary form of government intrusion that encroaches upon private property rights.
Jeff Burton, a resident of Huntsville, stated it best at the public hearing for the measure. “Humans need lighting for safety and living circumstances,” he said, “and this ordinance takes away property rights, which is not the proper purpose of government.” Additionally, there is no true dark sky in the Ogden Valley, which makes this measure pointless in that regard.
Gaye Creager of Eden was also concerned with the safety of the new measure, telling the committee that her mother “had a questionable character knock on her door and the only way the police was able to see him crawling through a corral was because of their light.” What would have happened with less light? Well, as another resident pointed out, “insufficient night lighting invites crime.”
Although one of the purported purposes of this law is safety, the measure doesn’t prove how individuals will be any safer because of new light regulations. If anything, it potentially makes the Ogden Valley a more dangerous place. If a resident wishes to have security lighting on their own property, they now have to prove to the government that the lighting is necessary with a letter from their insurance company or a “compelling argument” from a “qualified professional.”
Essentially, this measure requires residents to ask the government permission to protect their own property with personal security measures.
Residents and business owners of the Weber County now have an additional burden of government regulation to abide by on their own property. Although it is unlikely to actually protect public safety, perhaps residents will be able to see the nighttime sky better. By passing and supporting this measure, a clear message is sent that it’s the government’s job to protect the clarity of our view of the sky—an idea that’s quite preposterous.