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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
expressed the same thoughts in his two meetings with the Planning
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.
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.
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.
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.