Mount Vernon Drafting Ordinance to Limit Light Pollution

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter

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By Forrest Saunders

MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - Mount Vernon city officials are crafting a new ordinance that aims to limit outdoor light pollution. The policy wouldn’t affect anyone in residential zones, but many businesses in town.

Officials said excess light can waste energy and be annoying, trespassing onto neighboring properties and distracting drivers on the road. It's not a problem right now, but officials said they’re working on a new city ordinance to stop it before it starts.

"I think it's a concern for any community," said Truman Jordan, chair of the Mount Vernon Planning and Zoning Commission.

Jordan helped draft the policy, which has been in the works for about three years. He said at its core the ordinance requires any new outdoor lights installed by future businesses to follow strict rules. Depending on their purpose, lights would be limited in brightness, the direction they shine, how high they can stand, and more.

"This is just a guideline for future development in town," said Jordan.

Lights at existing businesses would be grandfathered in.

"They're okay, until they have to make a dramatic change. Then they have to comply with the ordinance," said Jordan.

The policy also calls for closed businesses to cut light levels down 60%, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Some have taken issue with that requirement saying it could be a security concern.

"We have inventory sitting outside. I know there's a business around the corner from us that has several million dollars' worth of vehicles sitting outside," said owner of Gary’s Foods, Dennis Dietrich.

Officials said the ordinance does allow for motion sensor lights to be installed, but Dietrich said he likes things fine the way they are.

"If we don't have a problem, why are we doing it? It's just kind of a waste of time," said Dietrich.

The city council will read the ordinance for a second time at their next meeting, December 9th.

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