Green Valley News & Sun


Serving the following Southern Arizona Communities:

Green Valley, Sahuarita, Corona de Tucson, Amado, Arivaca, Tumacacori, Tubac and Rio Rico.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004.





Let there be light--within reason





Has the lighting code saga in Sahuarita come to a positive end? You decide.

In a 6-1 vote Monday night, the Town Council in Sahuarita granted a code modification to the developers of Madera Marketplace, which includes the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter, Walgreens. and other stores, to exceed the town code of 48,000 lumens per acre and operate at a proposed 60,000 per acre lumen level.

The developers made an about-face, backing away from their previously staked position that they couldn't possibly operate the stores safely without using at least 108,000 per acre.

A lumen is a measure of light emitted from a fixture and basically we doubt if anyone except a lighting expert and the astronomers at the Whipple Observatory can tell the difference between 108,000 lumens per acre and 60,000 per acre.

The Whipple Observatory agreed to the 60,000 lumen limit, noting that "a proper design needs more lumens than the code allows in this instance."

Reasons cited include the fact that the site contains two banks with ATMs and that the "Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) recommends higher levels at those machines for security."

Other reasons Whipple gave for agreeing to the developers' request to exceed the code include the following: "The Walgreens is a prescription pharmacy open until at least 9 a.m. The IESNA recommends somewhat higher levels at such a location for security,"

Also, Whipple said, "the Wal-Mart is a 24-hour-a-day operation. IESNA recommends somewhat higher lighting levels here for security."
Dan Brocious of the Whipple Observatory came to the following conclusion in a letter to Sahuarita's mayor and Town Council.

"The cumulative effect of the shape of the parcel, the store pad positions, several locations where more light is appropriate and the 24-hour store operation raise the amount of light needed above the limit in the code.

"The town had now established a procedure by which any future builder wishing a lighting modification will know that he/she must show real cause by submitting a lighting plan drafted to the intent of the (town) Code. While the observatory always prefers the least amount of light be used in outdoor applications in order to preserve the quality of science done here, we all want night-time lighting to be adequate to the task," Brocious wrote.

"Granting Evergreen Development's request to implement this lighting design should serve the shoppers and community well and be an example of good outdoor lighting," he concluded.

If Whipple can live with the higher limits and the Town Council can live with them, we rest our case. Our major concern was light pollution of the dark skies that make Southern Arizona the vaunted "astronomy capital of the world." If that's not compromised, as Whipple says it is not, then we support the code variance.

But with a proviso. As we've said, the average person has no clue about whether the lighting at the proposed new shopping center exceeds 60,000 per acre. If it does, it will up to the town to enforce that limit.

We hope the Whipple Observatory will monitor the lighting levels, too, in their own best interest as well as in the interest of community service, which they have provided on a volunteer basis in this whole situation, along with Hy Kaplan, who chairs a city/county outdoor lighting task force.

La Joya Verde residents who live close to the shopping center were skeptical about the process and with good reason.

We have no doubt that they will be vigilant in ensuring that the developer does indeed observe the limits agreed to and report any suspected infraction to the town promptly for action.

The developers got the break they sought in the interest of public safety. Now it's up to the town to make sure the developers live up to their part of the bargain.


2004 Green Valley News & Sun