Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Planning Commission


May 8, 2008

Staff Lead:


Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator

Community Development



Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Section 9-1006 Related to Architectural and Landscape Lighting

Topic Description: 

The proposed text amendment provides limits on uplighting of flags and similar features.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.


Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.


Summary Staff Report: 

A recent inquiry related to installation of a flagpole raised the issue of whether the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance adequately addresses lighting of flags.   Flag-lighting is almost always up-directed, and driven by a protocol that calls for many flags to be lit if they are flown at night.

The existing regulations do allow uplighting for architectural and landscape features, including flags, provided that the light is aimed and controlled so that the light is confined to the object being illuminated.  The specific language in the ordinance is:                           

2.      Outdoor lighting of buildings, landscaping, signs, flags, statues and other objects shall consist of full cut-off or directionally shielded lighting fixtures that are aimed and controlled so that the directed light shall be confined to the object intended to be illuminated.  Directional control shields shall be used where necessary to limit stray light.  No light from any illuminated sign shall cause or direct non-reflected light from the fixture to shine onto any adjoining property or public right-of-way.

It is not clear how this language could practically be applied with respect to flags, as flags typically move in the wind. 

The International Dark Sky Association (IDA), which promulgates lighting standards to protect the night sky notes the following in their Outdoor Lighting Code Handbook: “Though it may be appropriate in some instances and in a limited way to light flags at night, it is clear that flags and flag lighting are also used for advertising. Though some shielded and downdirected options are available for flag lighting, IDA generally supports the old tradition of lowering flags at sunset.”

One possible approach then, is to limit or ban flag-uplighting after a certain time.  The Pennsylvania Outdoor Lighting Council promulgates such a policy, banning flag-lighting after 11 p.m., except for the state and U.S. flags. Staff has been unable to find a local ordinance which completely bans the lighting of flags.  Additional examples of how flag lighting is addressed in local ordinances are noted below:

Nantucket, Massachusetts:

To light local, state, or national flags, when no more than two light fixtures per flag are used, with a maximum of 150 watts (incandescent) each. The fixtures must be shielded such that the lamp is not visible outside a 15' radius.

Ketchum, Idaho:

Upward flagpole lighting is permitted for governmental flags only, and provided that the maximum lumen output is 1300 lumens. Flags are encouraged to be taken down at sunset to avoid the need for lighting.

Lithopolis, Ohio

Flags and monuments (public and private)

Each flag or monument may be lighted by one (1) spotlight emitting no more than 1,800 lumens. The light must be angled or shielded in such a way to minimize up light, light trespass, and glare.

Bellevue, Wisconsin

(b) Flag Lighting. United States, State of Wisconsin and Village of Bellevue flags are exempt from the downlighting requirement. All other flags shall be downlit.

(4) Illumination of American flags, and flags in general, shall be reduced to 25% of its normal illumination level during the hours of 11:00 p.m. until dawn of each day.

Village of Homer Glen, Illinois

Uplighting shall only be permitted for landscape lighting, architectural lighting, flag lighting, and lighting of ground-mounted signs that are not internally illuminated. Uplighting applications shall meet the following requirements:

            Uplighting       Maximum        Maximum

            Application     Inclination       Light Output

            Flag Lighting*            60°                  1100 lumens† (up to 45°)

                                                            800 lumens†† (up to 60°)

            *    The tradition of lowering flags at sunset is encouraged to avoid the

                  need for lighting.

            †    Typical 75W incandescent bulb or 50W low-voltage halogen

                  landscape bulb.

            ††  Typical 60W incandescent bulb or 35W low-voltage halogen

                  landscape bulb.

Monroe, Washington

Illumination of flags of the United States or the State of Washington shall be from below provided such lighting is focused primarily on the individual flag or flags so as to limit trespass and spill into the dark night sky.

Bainbridge Township, Ohio

Light fixtures used to illuminate flags, statues, or any other objects mounted on a pole, pedestal, or platform, shall use a narrow cone beam of light. Only one fixture with a lamp emitting no more than 1,800 lumens shall be used for each flag, statue, or other object illuminated.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Lighting for flags provided the flag is a United States of America or State of Idaho official flag and the maximum lumen output is one thousand three hundred (1,300) lumens. Flags may be taken down at sunset to avoid the need for lighting. The external beam shall minimize light trespass and/or glare.

The language proposed by the Planning Commission in conjunction with the initiation of this amendment on February 28, 2008 discourages the lighting of all flags, and prohibits the lighting of any flag other than governmental flags, with that lighting limited to down-lighting.  After a public hearing on March 27, 2008, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the proposed text amendment. 

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Department of Economic Development

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