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Don’t Get Left in the Dark: Navigating Boulder’s Light Regulations

Commercial, industrial, and residential owners beware! Starting November 2019, the City of Boulder will be actively enforcing outdoor lighting regulations (as found in Section 9-9 16, “Outdoor Lighting,” B.R.C. 1981) that were voted into effect in 2003. Those who are found in violation of these ordinances will risk delays and issues for permits for items such as renting, landscaping, or other renovations. Even if you’re not planning on seeking a permit any time soon, City Council is going to begin active enforcement and require immediate compliance for anyone found in violation.

Why now?

It might feel very sudden to have an ordinance from nearly 20 years ago actively enforced and holding up your build or business plan. The intention of the lighting ordinances was to decrease light pollution collectively as a city, reduce excessive glare, and of course, reduce the overall carbon footprint of the city. With the voting in of the Outdoor Lighting Regulations came a stipulation that the residents of Boulder had 15 years to become compliant before they started being refused other permits in lieu of being in violation. After that 15 year period, property owners had an additional year to upgrade their lighting– which leads us to November 2019.

For property owners seeking to rent out their buildings, compliance with the Outdoor Lighting Regulations must be met before the rental license can be issued. Sometimes, a “reduced term” license is issued, giving the owner one year to bring the property into compliance before the rental license is expired. Another license will not be issued until the property is in compliance.

What does compliance look like?

To become compliant, property owners must prove to the city through a photometric light plan that the requirements laid out in the Outdoor Lighting Regulations are met. After this plan is approved by the City of Boulder, it must,  of course, be enacted and installed, and then an engineer, electrical contractor, or lighting consultant must sign off on a certification that is attached to the property. This can be a risky and costly endeavor, since there are many consultants and engineers who may not be completely familiar with the ordinances, so entire plans are created and then denied.

We encourage you to do your research and ensure that the agency or firm that you choose to handle your lighting plan has proven experience creating photometric plans that are compliant with the regulations, and that they are doing so for a reasonable price. As an example, Colorado Lighting, which has been servicing locals for over 43 years, has extensive experience in doing so, and even brought the buildings that represent the City of Boulder up to compliance.

How do I reach Outdoor Lighting Regulations compliance?

Some of the biggest violations that commercial property owners face relate to regards to parking lot lighting. While most lighting poles have 4 heads of bulbs at the top, the Outdoor Lighting Regulations require that there is a reduction of lamp heads and that they are energy efficient. These same poles cannot be over 25 ft. tall. Additionally, wall pacts on the lights of many buildings need to be shielded so that the light is not going up, but on the ground. Colorado Lighting technicians also see a lot of specific fixtures that need to be implemented to make sure that the light stops at the property line.

Does this apply to me?

If you did not obtain a building permit since 2003 that is in full compliance with the Outdoor Lighting Regulations, or you’re unsure if your property is compliant, we highly recommend you do so in order to avoid any building delays. As always, we can point you in the right direction to the best specialists.

Note: Special thanks to Rachelle Moschetti of Colorado Lighting for shedding light, literally and figuratively, on this subject!