As Sanibel re-configures an important ordinance, one upset resident is telling the city enough is enough. And Karen Storjohann said she is not alone in her frustration.
Storjohann voiced concern at a July 22 city hearing about the city's extension of the dark-sky regulation, a rule that urges landlords, homeowners and merchants to change outdoor lighting fixtures and bulbs to reflect downward, limiting so-called light pollution. The rule also helps young sea turtles from wandering landward after hatching in late summer. Light misdirects some turtles.
The initial dark-sky ordinance was adopted in June 2000, giving the island fifteen years to comply. The deadline in the last week was extended through 2018, mostly because few are in compliance, the city's vice mayor said. Condo associations had struggled to get tennis court, roof and pool lighting in compliance, Doug Congress was told. He is directing an effort to identify fixtures and other technology that homeowners, condo groups and others can agree meet the standard and isn't too costly.
Compliant lighting should be flush
But Storjohann, a retired elementary teacher, said fifteen and three are bad math.
"It's not like we're starting from scratch," she said. "I mean, the city's had fifteen years. I could see a year, but three more and the sense of urgency is gone."
Vice Mayor Congress said he understands the frustration, but that vast improvements over the last fifteen years in lighting technology and fixtures have changed the game. He expects to have firm recommendations in place by early fall, plenty of time for the return of season.
"As the (dark-sky) deadline approached," Congress said, "there was a lot of confusion, and with confusion came non-compliance. Faced with the decision of the clock striking 12, what were we going to do?"
Congress also couldn't envision code officers firing off tickets for those not in compliance. He did, however, warn that future deadlines will not be crossed.
"We're not going to say in three years, gee, you're not in compliance," he said. "We moved the deadline, we're going to modify and educate. That's the plan."
Still, Storjohann, whose island home is fully dark-sky compliant, is upset that a minority are carrying the day.
"Bluntly," she said, "the delay is to pacify a contingency that is noisy, and it looks like our complaints are falling on deaf ears. I mean, we've had fifteen years to plan for this. That doesn't strike me as an unreasonable amount of time."
Congress said his committee recommendations will likely go to the city's Planning Commission, which would forward its own additions to the package to the full City Council for final approval. He did not envision changes to the three-year extension.