Qualicum Beach council had an enlightening debate over resident concerns about bright streetlights in the community.
Town engineer Bob Weir, based on a review conducted by engineers commissioned by the town regarding complaints raised by residents about BC Hydro’s upgrading of pole-mounted lights to LED, recommended no changes be undertaken and to retain the 75W 4000K streetlights.
But Coun. Anne Skipsey, at town council’s recent committee of the whole meeting, made a motion to direct staff that the town retain major collectors and points of conflict as 4000K 75W and to change all residential streetlights to 3000K 39W.
She suggested the town negotiate with BC Hydro to allow alternate LED distribution types for use near intersections or areas where trespassing light is a concern. The motions passed with the support of Coun. Teunis Westbroek and Coun. Robert Filmer. Mayor Brian Wiese and Coun. Scott Harrison opposed.
Weir indicated the consultants informed them if they switch to 39W, the town needs to tighten up the streetlighting poles to give the street enough light coverage. He stressed this is all about keeping the community safe, especially at night.
“Council has asked for and now received a report from professional illuminations engineers on what to do about this complaints,” said Weir. “So this is on the public record saying not to change it and you should leave it here. And if you do, you are reducing levels. I don’t know if people saw the news. But I did. There were two pedestrian fatalities this weekend albeit in busier locations. But it goes to the importance of having … lights are there for safety at night. And if, God forbid, something were to happen, exhibit A is going to be the report to council saying ‘don’t change the lights.’”
Westbroek indicated the motions are merely recommendations to council for consideration. He explained this would give council more time to assess the whole issue.
One resident, Claire Olivier, who spoke about the light spill on her property as being “extreme,” expressed concerns about the lack of public outreach and also highlighted her research on streetlighting options at other communities on Vancouver Island. She pointed out that areas such as the City of Duncan opted for a 3000K 39W or 3000K 75W options and suggested it might be worth finding out why they chose this direction.
Oliver asked council to consider retrofitting all residential streetlights to the 3000K 39W option unless safety issues are totally substantiated.
Another resident, John Wood, commented about the safety factor behind the bright lights.
“If safety is the fundamental basis on which to make decisions then it shouldn’t be overruled by ‘nice to have,’” said Wood. “Safety is a must-have situation.”
Wood pointed out if the town has 31 complaints received, they could easily be addressed on an individual basis without costing the town a lot of money.
Wiese made a motion that the town work with BC Hydro to mitigate the current 31 locations by reducing wattage, davit arm reorientation, shielding or by any other means necessary. It passed unanimously.