Property Rights

Weber County Bans So-Called “Light Trespassing”


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.

  • Lori A

    People should also have a right to sleep! They should have a right to stargaze! Statistically, there’s no evidence that increased lighting reduces crime. However, there are several studies linking light pollution to heart disease, diabetes, and even some types of cancer. The new law doesn’t say you shouldn’t have lights, it says they should be installed in a way that protects your neighbors from the harmful effects of light pollution. That’s not preposterous, it’s common courtesy.

    • Jim Smith

      And here exemplifies why government gets involved in these things – because people like Lori A seem to believe there is no other way to handle things outside of the sledgehammer of government.

    • Lori A

      If I ask my neighbors to quiet their dogs and they refuse to do so, I would call animal control. If I ask them to turn down their music late at night, and they refuse to comply, I would call the police. If neighbors have asked neighbors not to light up their personal property and they refuse to comply, then what other means would you suggest for them to be able to sleep at night, if not government? Not a rhetorical question, I’d really like to know.

      • You could try curtains. If that’s not sufficient you could get the blackout type of curtains. Also, reasonable residential lighting is not a nuisance. Its a foreseeable use of residential property. Lighting on private property is not cause for a common law nuisance suit like loud noise and barking dogs might be. Reasonable residential lighting doesn’t violate the covenant of quiet enjoyment.

        • Lori A

          I did buy curtains, despite already having quality blinds. Blackout curtains were $2500. And I still can’t stargaze with my kids. Tell me again how my enjoyment hasn’t been violated?

          • Alex Chamberlain

            I have blackout curtains that I got from walmart for $25, and they work great. $2,500 sounds like bullshit to me. Quit crying about your neighbor’s light. People like you violate the enjoyment of the rest of the world so it’s pretty difficult to care about yours. In short, shut up and deal with it.

          • Lori A

            I violate the enjoyment of the rest of the world? In what way? Because I don’t think you have the right to light up my bedroom? Because I want to teach my kids about astronomy? Sleep in the backyard under the stars without wearing sunglasses? Here’s the situation my city planner (not my neighbor) put us in. We couldn’t sleep for for more than a few hours at a time because the light was so bright and installed so close to our home, shining directly into six bedroom windows. We already had quality blinds, and yet I didn’t even have to turn on the light to tell which toothbrush was mine. Nothing Wal-Mart carries can block that level of light. Trust me, we tried everything–curtains, blankets, more blankets. We resorted to putting insulation panels in the windows, but then we had issues with mold, so we finally spent our vacation money on drapery that was thick enough to keep the light out. I won’t “shut up and deal with it” when the NIH has determined that I’m now at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer. In addition, I’m completely creeped out that there are people who are so angry because the county doesn’t want them to light up their neighbor’s bedroom. Apparently voyeurism is alive and well in Weber County.

  • phinux

    I don’t like the government interference too much, but I could see at least an ordinance to reduce light pollution toward your neighbor’s yard. I’d like to see less light pollution from street lamps, though I’m loath to let the government spend too much money in modifying or installing new lamps. It is worth noting in your article that unless you’re expecting winged invaders from above, there is not much point in having lighting directed towards the sky. The “best” option here is more than adequate for both safety and protection of the home. Though I’ve heard that burglars like well-lit neighborhoods as well, since they’re usually safer. The current recommendations is to set up smart lights to make it look like someone is home and moving around. But I digress.
    In general I prefer that people simply make good choices on their own. I don’t object to a basic city ordinance against the “very bad” lighting after a certain time of night as it is quite intrusive towards people’s lives and detrimental to wildlife. But I’d rather see a program that helps people phase out that lighting and an education system on why it’s not particularly awesome. Usually cities themselves are the worst offenders with street lamps.

  • James Wood

    Section 39-8 specifically exempts agricultural and residential from this ordinance. Why lie about how it will affect people’s homes?

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