Skip to content

Qualicum Beach to replace bright streetlights that shine into homes

Council seeks BC Hydro’s advice, guidance
(PQB News file photo)

The Town of Qualicum Beach Council has decided to have lights replaced with lower wattage and colour temperature in the areas where they’ve received complaints about light trespass.

Council considered the measure more efficient and cost-effective, rather than addressing each complaint individually. A motion was passed during a special meeting on April 19 after a long debate on the issue.

It’s a decision town staff sought after they were directed last February to look into all the complaints of light trespass and other issues and to find ways to mitigate them. There were 17 figures or charts staff presented to council that highlighted different situations of light trespass complaints that the town have received. Staff asked council how they would like to address each one of them.

“This is the kind of decision-making that we don’t want staff undertaking at the operational level,” said CAO Lou Varela. “The initiative to change out street lights is a governance decision and we want to make sure you carried this decision-making through to the end of phase one.”

There are over 60 lights, Varela said, town staff will work with BC Hydro to replace. There are eight lights, however, that cannot be replaced as they are located on arterial roads and considered to be a safety measure.

Town council attempted to address each complaint but found the process to be complicated as they are not sure how residents who have no issues with the intruding lights are going to feel about replacing them.

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach wants BC Hydro to replace bright LED streetlights

“I don’t think I should dictate what somebody else down the street should have for a light,” said Mayor Teunis Westbroek. “If they’re happy, and they have a longer driveway, they may have trees on their driveway, they might not see the light at all, they might like the light the way it is. It’s going to be a very lengthy process to go through all these charts if we’re going to kind of speculate, whether the people who live further down the road but also have their light on their list from somebody else, then we could be here for a long time.”

Several suggestions were floated by members of council that include redirecting the focus of the light, adjusting the davit arm or placing some shields on the lights.

Varela said BC Hydro has confirmed that the lights have been installed to specification and have made adjustments on a small number of lights. She added BC Hydro has indicated shielding, changes to davit arm length, orientation, location, or other means to further mitigate light spill may or may not be possible, due to physical obstructions such as overhead wires, etc., and if requested, would come at additional costs as per BC Hydro’s standard charges.

“We are very limited and again this isn’t our infrastructure,” Varela commented. “This is BC Hydro’s infrastructure. So, it’s not like the town can just go undertake this work.”

Westbroek suggested inviting BC Hydro to appear as a delegation to council’s committee of the whole meeting to enlighten them and the community about what the issues are from their perspective.

Councillor Anne Skipsey indicated she thinks it would ideal to have the technical expertise to draw from regarding solutions and options but she fears this is going to prolong the process even more.

Westbroek said the town should just go ahead and have the lights replaced in the areas town staff have already identified. He added BC Hydro or town crews, through their management, should be advised that council and staff rely on their experience and guidance to help address the issue of light trespass.

“They make lots of money,” Westbroek pointed out. “BC Hydro is not scratching the barrel as far as paying for their bills. They make good money and they’re going to make more money. Can they help us solve the problem rather than us being specific on things that we’re not really expert in.”

Skipsey made a motion to replace all the lights to a lower wattage and warmer colour temperature in the areas where complaints have been received by staff. The Valdez Avenue area was deferred until staff can confirm the community supports the proposal to replace the lights.

Westbroek also made a motion for council to help staff compose a letter requesting BC Hydro direct their crews or staff to look at the different situations and come up with solutions to address them.

Westbroek said if residents still have complaints after the lights have been changed, they will have another intake of complaints that they plan to deal with.

Staff reported that BC Hydro is prepared to offer a maximum of 99 light exchanges at a cost of $500 per fixture. The town has included $100,000 in the town’s 2023 budget for the streetlight replacement project. Should the second intake of light complaints require expenditure beyond this amount, staff will seek additional council direction at that time.

BC Hydro has indicated the second intake for streetlight change-outs will be charged at the posted BC Hydro rate of $1,750 per light.


Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
Read more