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.

    • Liz Ramirez

      Lori I support your side and issue 100%. People who don’t experience these issues don’t understand. For most people they live in a quiet neighborhood with cooperative and socially conscious neighbors who don’t purposefully set out to anguish their neighbors by installing spot lights on their houses that shine into bedrooms all night long. Some people can sleep through a tornado and others have severe sleep sensitivity. Whatever the reason is the person being harmed shouldn’t have to publically rationalize and defend themselves. For two years I suffered disrupted sleep and agonizing headaches from being blinded by my neighbors spot light that shone into our master bedroom, bathroom, and dining room. I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without getting blinded through my curtains. I tried talking with them several times to no avail. Everyone’s response on here seems stereotypical of blaming the victim and it seems very one sided and I wanted you to know you aren’t alone. I come rely agree that the people experiencing the issue shouldnt have to be the ones to spend the money to fix it. its my belief that the person causing the issue should take responsibility and fix the issue. Their need to be heavily defined social laws just like this one in every county for the people who blatantly violate and crap on social norms, justice, and common curtesy. I live in a neighborhood plagued by these types of issues, dogs left out barking all day and night, neighbors parking in my driveway, blocking my driveway, throwing their trash in my yard, piling their yard debris onto my property and the. Turning around and refusing to pay for half of the expenses to fix the shared fence, which would mitigate their trash piling on the side of my house and from blowing into my yard.

      In my years as a home owner I have learned that if people can find a way to neglect responsibility they will.

      All large cities have implemented similar laws because when you start piling people into close living quarters regulations are necessary to facilitate the peace. People living in suburbs or mostly affluent white communities are less likely to experience injustices and civil crimes of this nature. These people will typically cry foul when laws are implamented that clearly define common knowledge, common curtesy, social norms because they have little understanding of the larger long term psychological impact that these negative behaviors create.

      One neighbor recently bent over my 4 ft high fence in my back yard and cut down my grape vine, down to the ground. He then insisted that he didn’t have any responsibility to pay for half the cost of installing a privacy fence after I caught him a second time cutting other plants bending over the fence into my yard. Yet Weber county law does have a loose fencing law on the books saying that neighbors do in fact share the cost of installing and maintaining shared fences.

      That’s two different neighbors both acting out against my property and refusing to take responsibility and fix or install new fencing! One of the two neighbors comained that he didn’t want the fence between our properties because he would lose access to piling his yard debris on the side of our house and that his property would look smaller.

  • 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?

  • Daniel Rhead Cottam

    i live next to a church with lighting that makes it hard to sleep. I have to buy special blinds to sleep. That should get libertarians excited since someone else is intruding on my and making me change my behavior. A little regulation so that we can all get along is not bad