In an effort to shore up its dark sky lighting bylaw, the Township of Muskoka Lakes is considering regulating the amount of indoor light allowable.
The Township officially enacted a dark sky bylaw in 2014 but the compliance date is set for 2024. During a recent meeting Township staff provided councillors with an update on the municipality’s dark sky lighting bylaw
Coun. Barb Bridgeman said she had received numerous communications from members of the public who were concerned with the levels of light emanating from inside buildings.
Coun Peter Kelley said enforcing greater controls on light emanating from inside a building would be a challenge.
“It will be difficult to measure so we’ll have to appeal to people’s common sense,” said Kelley. ‘To me we’re opening up Pandora’s Box of enforcement. Can we prescribe things like blinds on new builds as part of a site plan agreement?”
Council was informed by staff that items like blinds and shades do not typically fall under site plan agreements.
Coun. Donelda Hayes said she would like to see several changes to the bylaw. That includes only allowing one week of festive lights at Halloween, and Christmas lighting only to be allowed between November 15 and January 31.
Mayor Phil Harding said he had some concerns with a time restriction on extinguishing all lights by 11 p.m.
Coun Ruth Nishikawa said she was surprised by how little her fellow councillors knew about the dark sky bylaw. She said Muskoka must be protected so people can see the stars when they arrive and she urged the council to better educate themselves on the bylaw.
David Pink, the Township’s director of development services and environmental sustainability, issued a note of caution regarding enforcement. He said the Township itself currently has many non-compliant light fixtures that need to be retrofitted or replaced entirely.
“The bylaw has been on the books since 2014 but I don’t think we’ve expressed to the public properly what needs to happen by 2024,” said Pink. “It has the potential to be overwhelm bylaw resources. We anticipate quite a number of complaints coming in once this goes into effect.”
Council agreed to put new rules up on the Engage Muskoka website for 60 days to solicit public input.
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