Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Fauquier County Planning Commission

August 19, 2002

Staff Lead:


Frederick P.D. Carr, Director

Community Development



With Fauquier County’s growing population comes the demand for more recreational fields as softball, baseball and soccer youth leagues are experiencing significant expansion.  The large number of teams and the significant number of adults commuting to work places has led to more demand for facilities which are available later in the evening and at night to accommodate demand and schedules.  Fauquier County has made the commitment to build more fields to handle the increased demand, and some of those fields will be lighted and near established or future residences and roadways.

The Planning Commission recently completed a lengthy examination of proposed amendments to the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance regarding outdoor recreational lighting.  The Commission established two primary objectives for the amendments: ensure a safe level of light for play and minimize the amount of glare and spillover light emanating from outdoor recreational lighting, other than that associated with residential accessory uses such as swimming pools or private tennis courts.

If approved, the amendments would clarify the purpose and intent of the Zoning Ordinance regarding general outdoor lighting regulations and specify standards for outdoor recreational lighting.  The amendments would:

  • Regulate outdoor recreational lighting on public and private facilities.
  • Require lighting fixtures to be mounted and aimed so beams fall within the primary playing area and be within the recreational lighting specifications for safe play.
  • Require direct illumination to be confined within the property lines of the recreational use.
  • Mandate full light cutoff from the fixtures.
  • Prohibit the placement of poles or fixtures within 50 feet of adjoining property lines.
  • Require a field lighting design plan including the lighting requirements for each field and specifications and technical measures on how to reach those requirements.  Special tree planting and/or buffering would be shown to assist in light control and protection of adjacent properties and roadways.
  • Prohibit outdoor recreational lighting in the Rural Conservation Zoning District or within 1,000 feet of a Rural Conservation zoning line.
  • Establish curfews for newly lighted outdoor recreational facilities (public and private).
  • Require override timing devices for newly lighted fields or existing fields being upgraded or refitted (public and private) to assure curfew compliance.
  • Provide for modification, wavier or variation from the standards set forth in the article.  Only the Board of Supervisors, following recommendation from the Planning Commission, may grant such modification, waiver or variation.  Both the Board and Commission shall hold public hearings on any modification, wavier or variation request.

The Planning Commission held two work sessions with Mr. Tom Lilly of MUSCO Lighting, a firm that installs approximately 75 percent of the lighting used by interscholastic teams in the State of Virginia.  MUSCO has three primary outdoor recreational lighting systems.  The first is the Sportscluster-2 that effectively controls 65 percent of glare and light trespass.  That is the system in use at the softball field at Fauquier High School.  MUSCO also has a system named Level 8, which is designed to control 80 percent of light trespass, but actual field measurements often show a reduction of 85-90 percent.  The third system (Total Light Control or TLC) is designed to control 95 percent of the light.  The Planning Commission visited Fairfax High School last October to view the TLC system in use, with the light level being less than one foot candle at a distance of 75 feet from the facility.

The Planning Commission members were enthusiastic with the real life results experienced during the demonstration of the Fairfax High School TLC system, and they advocated using the technical equivalent of the TLC system as the template for the Zoning Ordinance standards for outdoor facilities in rural and residential zones.  Staff and the Commission then formulated an Ordinance utilizing a zone system where TLC-equivalent lighting would be mandatory for facilities located in the rural and residential districts, while facilities in commercial or industrial zones could have the technical equivalent of a Level 8 system.  The TLC-equivalent system also would have been mandatory for outdoor recreational lighting located on parcels adjoining rural or residential zoning districts.  The Planning Commission later abandoned the district concept after receiving additional expert input.

Several substantial refinements followed before the Commission requested that Carolyn Bowen, Zoning Administrator, contact Mr. Mark Schuyler of Charlottesville, who has worked with the Dark Sky Association regarding state and nationwide legislation to lessen light pollution.  He also works with the University of Virginia’s lighting needs and high-end residential developments.

Mr. Schuyler stated outdoor recreational lighting is a highly specialized section of lighting design.  He further stated his feeling that performance lighting standards cannot be legislated.  He agreed outdoor recreational lighting is the most difficult to control and regulate, so he feels such projects must be designed on an individual site basis to be the most effective.  Too many variables exist to create a single set of standards that will encompass every project or site effectively.  Specifications or conditions such as the types of activities; size, composition and type of fields; topography and the amount of traffic entering and existing a site all must be calculated to determine the most effective design.  Outdoor lighting should be integrated for an entire complex or project, not only for particular fields.

Mr. Lilly expressed the same thoughts in his two meetings with the Planning Commission.   Mr. Lilly said a MUSCO Level 8 system in some cases could provide TLC results when all factors are considered, and he emphasized the need to have the flexibility of selecting the appropriate pole height.  Situating the light fixtures at a proper height is essential in an efficient lighting design, so the proposed ordinance does not limit pole height.  An issue of American City & Town cited the experience of the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida which enacted an ordinance prohibiting light poles from exceeding 60 feet in height to prevent light banks from rising above nearby residences.  This regulation actually increased light trespass because the lights had to be focused with a broader beam and at a flatter angle.  Players also complained about the large number of balls lost in the glare of the lights.  The poles then were extended to 80 feet, allowing a narrower focusing of the fixtures directly on the playing surface and decreasing the light escaping into the neighborhood.  The safety factor also improved for the players.

Mr. Schuyler recommended the Albemarle County lighting ordinance because that regulatory package contains a modification or waiver process.  An applicant must submit a site-specific plan and demonstrate the outdoor recreational lighting will not leave the site or impact the surrounding area in a substantial manner.  Ms. Jan Sprinkle, Deputy Zoning Administrator for Albemarle, said the modification process had proven to be useful when a proposal meets the spirit of the ordinance but cannot meet all of the technical specifications. The proposed Zoning Ordinance amendment would permit requests for modifications to the outdoor recreational lighting standards.  The Board of Supervisors, following Planning Commission recommendation, may modify or waive any standard set forth in Article 9. Under the proposed amendment, both the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission are required to hold a public hearing on the modification or waiver request.

The proposed Fauquier County Ordinance also calls for curfews on fields and mandates override timing devices for new fields or for fields undergoing substantial repair or upgrading.  The lights at Benner Field (Warrenton Middle School) and behind Coleman Elementary have timers in place to ensure the lights are turned off at a reasonable time.  The systems are set so the lighting is reduced at 10:50 p.m.  The level of light is sufficient so teams can conclude an inning or period of play safely, but the dimming also serves as a reminder that the curfew is approaching.  At 11:00 p.m., all but one bank of lights are extinguished, leaving enough light to permit the teams and fans to gather equipment and proceed to the parking area.  All lights are extinguished at 11:05 p.m. by the system.

The current amendment proposal calls for an earlier curfew than the Parks and Recreation Department currently has in place.  The amendment also may conflict with the Fauquier County Code, which permits the Director of Parks and Recreation to issue a permit to use facilities past established curfews.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

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


Financial Impacts Analysis:


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

Community Development

Parks and Recreation

Fauquier County Public Schools

Private schools with outdoor recreational lighting

Teams or leagues with outdoor recreational lighting on private fields

Adjoining and nearby property owners to outdoor recreational facilities


1.  Proposed Ordinance of approval