Light pollution draws attention in Fernley

FERNLEY - Fernley wants to dim the lights outdoors and let the night sky shine bright again.

The Fernley Town Board in coming weeks will examine light pollution in a community where industrial and residential growth have both brought more light to town.

"We want to address the issue while it is smaller rather than bigger," Town Manager Gary Bacock said. "We're growing fast enough that we need to address issues as they come in."

Bacock said regulations for new construction will likely require dimmer lighting as well as lights that point downward and don't shine above the light's horizontal plane. These rules would mostly apply to street and parking lot lighting.

"I don't want to establish requirements (that developers) can't meet," Bacock said.

A horse rancher on Farm District Road raised the light pollution issue in September and since then town staff has worked to draft regulations for new construction.

"Here at the ranch in the past, if you were changing the water at night, you would need a flashlight to see," said Karl Baker, who raises some 30 quarter horses on his 60-acre ranch. "You don't need a flashlight anymore to change the water in Fernley, Nevada."

Baker, a 25-year resident of Fernley, sees the two industrial parks about a mile due north as the primary culprits in brightening his night sky. Nevada Pacific Industrial Park and Fernley Industrial Park together built more than a dozen large manufacturing plants, many of them in the past three years.

Developers for both parks, however, don't look upon their exterior lighting as pollution.

"I think it's probably more perceived as a problem because it's a rural area," said David Loring, director of development at Dermody Properties, which owns Fernley Industrial Park. "It's probably one of the consequences of growth. I'm sure the rancher can see light from a ways away because everything else is dark."

Fernley Industrial has seven tenants on 110 acres developed since the early 1980s. No new buildings have been added in the past four or five years.

Loring doesn't think light pollution regulations will bring back the dark skies of the past.

"If you use light solely directed downward you will have more of them," Loring said. "I think with downward casing lights it will still be an issue."

Neighboring Nevada Pacific, owned by Wade Development, has built nearly 3 million square feet of industrial space since 1996. Wade has developed only 500 acres of the 5,000 the firm owns.

Company president Patty Wade said each tenant lights its property. Neither she nor Loring were aware that light pollution was under discussion at the Town Complex.

"As long as (regulations) don't measurably impact industry in the way they function, I'm sure they'd go along with it," Wade said.

Once Baker no longer needed a flashlight, he started researching light pollution on the Internet. He said Arizona and Texas have light pollution laws and the subject is gaining popularity across the country.

"What I want to achieve is a low-intensity lighted city," Baker said. "I would like to see the town of Fernley have a nice night atmosphere. You can't have a nice night atmosphere with glowing light pollution."


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