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:
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
(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
Uplighting Maximum Maximum
Flag Lighting* 60°
1100 lumens† (up to 45°)
800 lumens†† (up to 60°)
tradition of lowering flags at sunset is encouraged to avoid
† Typical 75W
incandescent bulb or 50W low-voltage halogen
†† Typical 60W
incandescent bulb or 35W low-voltage halogen
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
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