RIVERSIDE (CBS) — Property owners in Riverside County could risk hundreds of dollars in fines for having their lights shine too brightly — even during the “most wonderful time of the year”.
A proposed ordinance from Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione would levy fines as high as $500 for excessively bright outdoor lighting.
“Light trespass results in a waste of natural resources and, at certain levels, may jeopardize the health, safety or welfare of Riverside County residents,” Tavaglione wrote in an introduction to his proposal.
He began pursuing an ordinance last year, after a constituent complained that glaring light from a neighboring business was disrupting his sleep.
The supervisor noted that the last time the board addressed the issue was in 1988, but that was mainly to regulate light fixtures emitting rays that seriously disrupted star-gazing and research at the Palomar Observatory in northern San Diego County.
The proposed measure stipulates that all outdoor light fixtures “shall be located, adequately shielded and directed such that no direct light falls outside the parcel of origin, or onto the public right-of-way” and
“shall not blink, flash or rotate.”
There would be exceptions for street lights and lights utilized by public safety agencies, as well as lights used for public or private monuments and those activated for special occasions.
The proposal also calls for lighting displays, or “luminaires”, used specifically for holiday purposes to be used for no longer than 30 days during a 12-month period and turned off between the hours of 11 p.m. and sunrise.
Lights would also be prohibited from flashing, blinking or rotating.
A complaint of light trespass would have to be filed with the sheriff’s or code enforcement departments, whose personnel would conduct a follow-up investigation to confirm a violation.
The first two violations in a six-month period would be classified as infractions. A third offense in a six-month period would be treated as a misdemeanor, according to Tavaglione.
The minimum fine for a first offense would be $100. The penalty for a second offense would be $250, and the penalty for three or more offenses would be $500, including the possibility of up to six months in county jail.
Every night that the trespass continues would qualify as a separate offense.
Property owners who have committed “light trespass” prior to adoption of the ordinance would have three to six months to rectify the problem, or face penalties.
Upon its approval, a public hearing and final reading on the measure will be held on Nov. 15.
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