The invasive bright streetlights continue to be a glaring issue in the Town of Qualicum Beach.
Frustrated residents have been pressuring the town in the last two years to get BC Hydro to tone down its LED streetlights they say have been trespassing into their homes. Some residents want the luminosity and wattage of the intrusive lights reduced.
The issue was again discussed at length at the town’s committee of the whole meeting held Feb. 8. Residents provided input and concerns on Coun. Petronella Vander Valk’s resolution aimed at having BC Hydro replace streetlights in certain sections of the community.
Common complaints council heard included the negative impact the light spill is having on the quality of life and health, sleepless nights and not being able to enjoy their backyard and the comfort of their homes.
Some called the intrusion “overwhelming,” while others indicated their homes have become a “nighttime baseball park.”
Only one resident spoke against the motion. He raised the issue of public safety, should the town consider reducing the wattage of the lights. He referred to the town-commissioned illumination report that highlighted the significance of maintaining a 75-watt level in roadways. He also mentioned the Municipal Insurance Association of BC’s advice that less effective lighting on roadways could increase the town’s liability exposure and would be difficult to defend in a lawsuit.
The resident said he was surprised that town council would ignore the recommendations from the engineer’s illumination report and town engineer’s assessment.
Town council, after hearing the residents air their concerns and recommendations, debated Vander Valk’s motion that directs town staff to work with BC Hydro without further delay to replace the streetlights, identified as problematic by residents, to LED streetlights of 3000K (colour temperature in Kelvins) and 39 watts (luminaire wattage or brightness of the light), except those on arterial routes.
Vander Valk also recommended that, when replacing the problematic streetlights, BC Hydro design crews be directed to consider additional solutions for each problem light, such as shielding, changes to davit arm length, orientation and location, in order to reduce light trespass onto private properties.
Vander Valk also suggested the town continue to receive complaints from residents impacted by light trespass until Feb. 28 and that they be included for replacements, except those on arterial routes. Coun. Jean Young made an amendment that the final intake of complaints be accepted until Aug. 31. Council approved the amendment.
The motion also recommended that funding to replace the streetlights be included in the 2023 budget.
Prior to voting on Vander Valk’s resolution, Coun. Scott Harrison suggested council seek legal advice just in case of potential liability exposures. He made a motion to defer Vander Valk’s resolution, but it failed.
Council voted in favour of Vander Valk’s motion 4-1, with Harrison opposed.
Lou Varela, the town’s CAO, sought council’s direction regarding the inclusion of funding for the light replacement in the 2023 budget. She suggested a placeholder of $100,000 be included in the 2023-2026 financial plan.
Mayor Teunis Westbroek was not in favour of putting an amount in the budget, as he feels it will give BC Hydro an impression that they have $100,000 to spend on the light replacement. He wants the town to negotiate with BC Hydro first.
“By telling people we are expecting to pay this much, well, that’s what you’re probably going to pay,” said Westbroek. “So, no, I don’t agree with that.”
Varela clarified that without a dedicated amount included in the town’s financial plan, they will not be able to finalize the budget.
Westbroek said council will deal with it when they deliberate the budget.
Harrison wanted to know when the town needs to finalize its financial plans, as it is a legislated requirement. Varela replied the budget needs to be approved by May 18. She added that the first budget meeting will take place in March, which will give council ample time to provide staff directions.
Harrison said it would be ideal to have an amount etched out in the budget, as council will be pressed for time because they need to negotiate with BC Hydro, get the budget process going and hold public engagements.
Westbroek suggested to put in the placeholder the least amount of the cost, times the number of lights.
Under BC Hydro’s streetlight upgrade program, 551 new LED streetlights were installed in Qualicum Beach, replacing the high-pressure sodium light ballasts. The majority were 75-watt LED lights, while in some areas, particularly on arterial and major collector roadways, the lights were 114 and 162 watts.
Close to 60 complaints were received by the town about the lights.