Hudson, Iowa is a city divided over the questions of how dark is too dark and how dark is dark enough. A proposed amendment to the city code, dubbed the “Dark Sky” ordinance, has some residents up in arms over the possible curtailing of their outside light usage. Although the first proposed law wasn’t very restrictive and included a grandfather clause for lights presently in use, some citizens of the town viewed it as only the first step on the dimly lit slippery path into darkness and total government control.
While some of the townspeople appreciated the advantages a light ordinance could bring, such as monetary savings for the town, a chance to reduce light pollution or trespassing, and a positive environmental impact, others saw things from a different perspective. About half of the town believed that the more closely night time illumination approximates daylight the better. So while some decried the “Dark Sky” ordinance as an infringement on their rights and an invitation for burglars and other criminals, others saw a chance to save the earth and gain the opportunity to eliminate their neighbor’s annoying flood lights and maybe even get a chance to see the stars or a coming storm.
Input from residents initiated changes to the first proposal so that a less stringent amendment allowed for unrestricted outdoor advertising signs and for lighting directed at flag poles. Time restrictions for stadium and parking lot lights were also removed. Perhaps, as time passes, subsequent more restrictive amendments will be adopted as there appears to be a trend towards a reversal of the “the more light at night, the better” philosophy which has held sway since the invention of electric lighting.
Neighboring cities of Ames and Grinnell had previously adopted ordinances not so very different from the Hudson town council’s proposal. In fact in many areas of the U.S. the maxim “enough is as good as a feast,” has been increasingly applied to night time lighting. A return to more natural order in lighting is becoming more prevalent as less light and/or naturally produced light from solar lights is being embraced.