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Outdoor Lighting Ordinance

Outdoor Lighting Ordinance

In 2003, the City Council approved an outdoor lighting ordinance requiring non-compliant lighting fixtures to be replaced by Nov. 15, 2018. The objectives of the ordinance are to prevent light trespass, reduce light pollution (also known as “sky glow”), reduce excessive glare, promote energy conservation, and improve safety and security (including addressing the special nighttime lighting needs of an aging population). Learn how to become compliant with the ordinance. docx

Outdoor Lighting Ordinance and the Building Performance Ordinance Requirements

Privately-owned commercial and industrial buildings 20,000 square feet and larger must comply with both the Outdoor Lighting Ordinance and the  Building Performance Ordinance (BPO). The lighting requirements for the BPO include specific exterior lighting upgrades. These BPO lighting deadlines begin in 2021 based on building size. However, with the Outdoor Lighting Ordinance amortization deadline in July of 2018, owners are encouraged to comply with both ordinance requirements at the same time to capture economies of scale and realize cost savings for the exterior lighting upgrades required by both ordinances. Lighting rebates are available through  Xcel Energy as well as Boulder County.

Objectives of the ordinance

  • Establishing maximum allowable lighting levels which are based on zoning district and use.
  • Requiring lighting to be reasonably uniform to minimize light/dark contrast.
  • Requiring all light in excess of 2400 lumens (roughly equivalent to a 150 watt incandescent light bulb) to be “white light," which includes metal halide, fluorescent, and induction light bulbs, because of superior color rendering properties.
  • Requiring the use of full cut-off light fixtures and shielding to reduce glare, light pollution and light trespass.

How does this affect my property?

  • The current ordinance was adopted in 2003 and allowed property owners with existing lighting installations that are not in compliance with the ordinance 15 years to comply. July 15, 2018 is the required compliance date unless City Council extends this period as discussed in "Update" above. 
  • Property owners with building permits for multifamily dwelling units and non-residential projects, which include outdoor lighting improvements, will have to submit lighting plans that meet the requirements of the ordinance.
  • All new buildings must comply with all the requirements of the ordinance. Redevelopment and remodeling will have to meet certain levels of compliance based on “thresholds." The thresholds and required lighting improvements are based on the valuation of the proposed building improvements.
  • Lighting plans are not required for single-family detached dwelling units. There are, however, some basic effective requirements for single-family dwellings such as requiring the use of shielded light fixtures (see below).

Outdoor Lighting and Single-Family Homes

To bring outdoor lighting into compliance, owners of single-family dwellings must, at a minimum: 

  • Replace visible bulbs (i.e., unshielded bulbs that extend below the fixture encasement) with one not exceeding 900 lumens (equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb or 15-watt compact fluorescent/LED bulb). The lumen rating is commonly shown on the bulb packaging in conjunction with the wattage rating. Frosted glass diffuses the light, obscures the light bulb and reduces glare. 
  • With the exception of spot and floor lights (below), all bulbs may not exceed 900 lumens must be fully shielded (see figure below).
  • Spot lights and flood lights must be aimed so that they don’t shine across property lines, must be motion activated only to go off in no less than five minutes and shall not exceed 1200 lumens ( 75-watts incandescent bulb or 18.75-watt Fluorescent/LED bulb).

Check your outdoor light bulbs

Non-compliant fixtures are those that do not shield glare from adjacent streets or properties. To bring a light into compliance, owners need to, at a minimum, replace visible bulbs with one not exceeding 900 lumens (equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb or 15-watt compact fluorescent bulb). Spot lights and flood lights must be aimed so that they don’t shine across property lines. The lumen rating is commonly shown on the bulb packaging in conjunction with the wattage rating.

Frosted glass diffuses the light, obscures the light bulb and reduces glare. Full cut-off light fixtures ensure that no light projects above the horizontal, thus reducing light pollution. Full cut-off light fixtures qualify as fully shielded fixtures. If mounted at appropriate heights, the bulb is not visible from adjacent streets and properties.

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