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2/8/2018 No to Dark Skies: County planners vote 6-1 against Dark Skies’ zoning proposition
The Custer County Planning Commission (CCPC) met Monday, February 5 to discuss routine matters and also deal with the hot topic of whether to adopt a resolution to change the definition of light pollution proposed by the local Dark Skies organization. After much discussion by the CCPC and hearing both sides of the argument after all citizens present that wanted to be heard had their say, the CCPC voted 6-1 against the proposal by Dark Skies to change the definition. Dale Mullen cast the lone vote in favor, while Vic Barnes, Keith Hood, Chris Nordyke, Lance Ingram, Bill Donley, and Pat Bailey voted against the resolution. First order of business was to seat new planning commissioners, Jim Heath and Mike Shields. The CCPC also elected Vic Barnes as Chairman and Keith Hood as Vice Chairman, and Jackie Hobby will serve as secretary. They also designated all postings will be on the bulletin board in the hallway of the courthouse. At their meeting in December, the CCPC went over changes to their rules and regs. They are now on draft five. Many of the changes proposed were to clean up verbiage, take out redundancy in wording, define responsibilities and authorities, and include descriptions of storage containers. The CCPC voted to approve draft five as written and contingent on the new changes being proposed. The local Dark Skies organization sought to have the definition of light pollution changed to include “a color temperature exceeding 3000 degrees Kelvin.” Opponents were concerned that it was more government regulation and they were worried that there would be forced fees and possible jail time if they didn’t comply. Proponents of Dark Skies asserted that the organization was not trying to overstep or force anyone to lose the right to do what they want on their own property. The courtroom was packed and anxious for their voices to be heard on both sides of the debate. Planning and Zoning director and CCPC secretary, Jackie Hobby, read letters both in support of Dark Skies and against as well. Martha Davis, local county resident expressed concern that not having adequate lighting on a citizen’s own property was a safety issue. County resident, Bill Parker was concerned that property owner’s rights would be infringed on with yet another regulation. He also stated that we already have dark skies and it is voluntary and the organization is doing a great job of educating. We don’t need “the strong arm of government” to compel behavior. It should be voluntary. Brent Bruser county resident and supporter of Dark Skies stated that the impact on tourism in the county has been robust due to the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff being designated in 2015 as dark skies communities. In a letter to the CCPC, local resident, Kathy Griffin expressed the generosity of the volunteers with Dark Skies that donate books to school children and all they do to make the Valley a wonderful place by preserving the night sky. – Tracy Ballard