Lighting bylaw shot down at Town Meeting

Jun 3, 2015

A bid to restrict the brightness of signage throughout town was the sole item to fail at Town Meeting.

The bylaw put forth by the Select Board was an attempt to fight back light pollution and reduce the chance of flashy signs from distracting drivers.

However, several amendments added to the by-law were presented during Town Meeting Tuesday, prompting nearly 40 minutes of discussion and drawing concerns that voters were writing the language of the law at the meeting.

The first amendment asked Town Meeting members to remove two subsections of the bylaw that dealt with the implementation date for the new regulations and the hours of the day that the law would be in effect.

Town Administrator David Cressman explained the reason for the removal of hour restrictions.

“When it was pointed out to us that some people, the way it was written, would close their business and walk out into a dark parking lot, it was thought that wasn’t safe,” said Cressman.

He added that the main reason for the lighting bylaw was to restrict bright signage, not to regulate what hours business owners could have their lights on. But the issue could come up at a later date in a different bylaw, he said.

The first amendment to the proposal passed, but discussion over the next two amendments led to confusion. Select Board member Stanley Mickelson and Planning Board Chairman Joel Avila recommended adding language to the subsection of the bylaw dealing with restrictions on types of lighting.

“There’s not a lot of difference between these two motions,” said Town Counsel Anthony Savastano. “The only issue it comes down to is scrolling signs.”

Both Mickelson and Avila are unopposed to LED signs. However, Mickelson would restrict the signs to a single color, brightness and font. Avila would limit the frequency at which electronic messages change on signage to once an hour.

Because both amendments would conflict if approved by voters, Town Moderator Melissa Haskell said she wanted to discuss both motions so that Town Meeting members could decide if they wanted to hold an “either/or” vote.

Upon further discussion, a clear solution didn’t present itself, and Town Meeting members voted against both Mickelson's and Avila’s amendments and the main article.