Green Valley News & Sun

Friday, August 20, 2004

 

Outdoor lighting caps have not limited Flagstaff commercial growth

 

By Philip Franchine

 

GREEN VALLEY--The city of Flagstaff has had an outdoor lighting limit similar to Sahuarita's since 1989 and it has not slowed commercial development or caused security issues, a top city planner said.

 

Flagstaff has seen the development of a Home Depot, Target, Kohl's, Hilton Hotel and other hotels, a cinema complex, and two shopping centers anchored by a Staples and a Bashas' store and all have fit under the lighting cap, Flagstaff principal planner Mark Young said.

 

"We've had 15 years of development in that zone. To my knowledge we've had no safety issues. It's not a dim lighting situation, it is plenty of light. Any shopping center would do fine under that cap," Young said.

 

The stores listed above are in Flagstaff's Zone 2, where the outdoor lighting limit is 50,000 lumens per acre. A lumen is a measure of light emitted from a fixture.

 

Revised code

 

Sahuarita this summer revised its outdoor lighting code to allow 48,000 lumens per acre. Wal-Mart and Diamond Ventures have asked for a modification of the code to 110,000 lumens per acre, primarily arguing that the town limit does not provide enough light for safety. That case goes before the Town Council on Monday (See related story above).

However, Flagstaff has seen ample commercial development in the area limited to 50,000 lumens per acre, Young said.

 

At the request of three observatories just west of town, the city in 1989 divided itself into three zones. Zone 1 allows 25,000 lumens per acre within 2.5 miles of the observatories. Zone 2 allows 50,000 lumens per acre within 7 miles of the observatories. Zone 3 allows 100,000 lumens per acre beyond 7 miles.

 

In addition to the stores listed above, Zone 2 since 1989 has seen the development of a Red Lobster and Olive Garden complex; Big 5 Sporting Goods store; Hampton Inn; La Quinta Inn; Fairfield Marriott Inn and the University Business Center, Young said.

 

Built under code

 

A Wal-Mart store already was in place when the 1989 caps were approved, but the adjacent Bashas' and the other stores in the 8.8-acre Woodlands Town Center have been built under the lighting code, Young said.

 

The 4.9-acre Staples shopping center was built after the lighting code went into effect, Young said.

 

When asked if that lighting level threatened safety, as Wal-Mart and Diamond Ventures have told Sahuarita officials, Young said, "They always try to make an issue of that at the beginning, but they end up complying and it's not a problem. They use better lighting design, layout and fixtures."

 

"Before we adopted it, there was some trepidation and concern on the part of the Police Department as well as others in town, but after living with it for 15 years I don't think it's really an issue for them. People like the dark skies," Young said.

 

Police initially were concerned that the low pressure sodium (LPS) fixtures, which cast a yellowish light, would make it difficult to distinguish blood from oil or other fluids at accident scenes, but police have used spotlights and flashlights to illuminate accident scenes, Young said.

 

pfranchine@gvnews.com | 625-5511 x 28

 

2004 Green Valley News & Sun