- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002

LEESBURG, Va. The pro-growth-vs.-no-growth debate that dominates land-use politics in Loudoun County took to the skies yesterday, as residents weighed in for and against a Board of Supervisors proposal to restrict brightly lit signs, Christmas decorations and home-security floodlights that "pollute" the night.

About two dozen speakers, who were evenly divided on the issue, spoke during a public hearing before the board for more than two hours.

"It's amazing to me that you would want to turn off the lights," Jack Shockey of Hamilton told the supervisors. "I think you have done plenty of other disastrous things before, but this is the worst [proposal] I have ever seen . If you turn these lights out, then crime will go up."

Angus McLean Thuerner, of Middleburg, who supports the proposed restrictions, said, "When I was in World War II, I would stand on the USS Blue Ridge out in the Pacific, and I would look up and see stars, stars, stars. Now I look to the one side and I see the real Blue Ridge Mountains, and I look to the other and see [the lights of] Washington, D.C. I don't see any stars."

Earlier this month, Supervisor Bill Bogard, Sugarland Run independent, introduced a draft proposal that would curb light use in Loudoun County. The proposal would regulate the hours when commercial and residential lights above a certain wattage could be on, depending on where in the county a resident or business is located.

Different areas, as determined by their population, would have different codes E1 for the most residential through E4 for the most commercial. The earliest "lights out" policy would begin at 9 p.m. The latest that powerful light sources could be on is midnight. The policy would affect all lights over 5,500 lumens units of measure for the flow of light.

Typical household lights range from 1,650 lumens to 4,000 lumens each.

Helen Casey of Sterling Park said she supports the idea of limiting light use, but questioned the wording of the 15-page draft, calling it filled with "bureaucratese."

"I doubt that any of us can really comprehend what a lumen really is," she said. "Nor can I determine who the light police would be."

Other residents were more dramatic in their appeals to the board members, who won't vote on the item until September at the earliest.

"There is a lot of bad lighting going on right now," said Chris Walker, who demonstrated with lights and shades how proper lighting could be beneficial.

Sara Mae Phillips told the board there already was a light ordinance on record.

"Of all the pressing problems in Loudoun County for which this Board of Supervisors was elected don't you think that adopting an ordinance on how to change light bulbs is a bit over your heads?" Ms.Phillips said. "It seems to me that there is a good lighting ordinance already on the books and it reads something like this: 'On the first day God said, Let there be light, and it was good.'"

But Phil Lo Presti of Ashburn countered, "God did say let there be light, but God's light does go down at sunset."

Jay Greeley Jr., who is off to Virginia Commonwealth University in August to seek his master's degree in of business administration, warned he is unlikely to return to his hometown should the board adopt the policy. He also asked the board if all the ramifications had been carefully thought out.

"I worry, with all the trouble in the area with companies like WorldCom [laying off employees], has anyone thought how this would affect the small-business owner?" he said.

Scott York, Republican and chairman of the board, reminded those in attendance that the board was not taking action, but was just listening to the public comments. He said there would be ample time to consider the effect should the board decide to institute a lights policy.

But Eugene Delgaudio, Sterling Republican, who is opposed to the law, said no good can come from a policy that prohibits the use of light.

"This is basically the 'Vampire-Empowerment Act,'" he said, and vowed to oppose it.

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