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The Next Epic Hamptons Battle Takes to the Skies

Move over beach access, the next big fight coming to the East End is all about light pollution. Back in 2006, the Town of East Hampton passed a dark skies law that aimed to preserve the visibility of the natural night sky and commercial properties were then given four years to come into compliance. But, "about a year ago, the town board decided to rewrite the law, calling it imperfect, and lifted the compliance requirement."

Now the lighting code is being changed once again and the current draft legislation, helmed by Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, would abolish the existing blanket policy approach. Instead, she wants to create new lighting zones within the Town, which would seem to ignore one of light's inherent properties: it travels. Susan Harder, one of the fiercest advocates of strict dark skies legislation, says:

"This is a radical measure, one that removes any and all of our long standing outdoor lighting standards in the town. All of the lighting that has been illegally installed will be permanently legalized. And worse, no longer would new lighting plans, prior to installation, be reviewed by the Planning Department, a department that has, for over two decades, been on the front lines of assuring compliance to our community standards. Quigley's law is written in such a way that it is confusing, contradictory, and unenforceable; hence, it would be like having no regulations at all. I believe this is her intent and a direct reflection of her ideology: a dislike and disrespect for zoning codes and the Planning Department itself."

In an editorial, the East Hampton Star agrees: "There appears to be no compelling reason for the town board to take a whack at rewriting the lighting law, unless its goal is to weaken it. While details are still being worked out, there is reason to fear the worst."

· Brightening Dark Skies By the Zone [East Hampton Star]