Monday, August 16, 2004 Time: 7:33:27 PM EST 

Bill to control isle's outdoor lighting up for discussion

WAILUKU - County Council members will take another look this week at a bill to regulate outdoor lighting.

The council's Public Works and Traffic Committee will take up the issue at a meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday in the eighth-floor Council Chambers of the Kalana O Maui building.

The lighting regulations, intended to control light pollution, have been long pending before the council and were last discussed in November. Major provisions of the bill include requiring all major, new outdoor lights to outfitted with yellowish, low-pressure sodium bulbs, and to be shielded downward. The bill would also introduce wattage restrictions for new streetlights and create a schedule for retrofitting existing county streetlights.

Public Works Chairman Mike Molina said his committee has been gathering information on the issue over the past 10 months and that he was now ready to see action on the bill.

"It's my goal to schedule committee meetings on a regular basis until a recommendation is finalized and sent to the council for consideration," he said in a statement, adding that he hoped a new lighting-standards bill would be passed by the end of the year.

Astronomers and environmentalists have praised the proposed regulations, saying light pollution is rapidly increasing and poses a threat to astronomical research on Haleakala and to endangered birds and sea creatures which rely on starlight for navigation.

But police, hotels and businesses have raised concerns about the bill, saying the yellow-tinged low-pressure sodium bulbs would make it hard to identify criminals and the regulations would detract from the aesthetics and ambiance of resorts.

Molina noted that the County of Hawaii passed light restrictions in 1988. The Big Isle council acted in response to concerns that light pollution could degrade the value of Mauna Kea as a site for astronomical research.

"Maui's reputation as a special place to live and as one of the most popular visitor destinations in the world make it imperative that we establish controls on lighting before our beautiful night sky is surpassed by light glare and trespass," he said.


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