JACKSON, Wyo. — Stargazing is poised to get even better in Teton County.
During yesterday morning’s meeting, the Teton County Board of County Commissioners voted to amend the county’s land development regulations (LDRs) so that the county can become eligible for International Dark Sky Community (IDSC) designation.
According to the county’s staff report, there are 25 International Dark Sky Communities (IDSC) in the United States, and 38 globally, through the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). Most of these communities are singular cities or towns, some are adjoining municipalities, and none are at the county level. IDSC designation makes Teton County the first county recognized as a dark sky community.
Samuel Singer, executive director of Wyoming Stargazing proposed the changes, which build on previous requests from the same applicant.
In 2016, Singer requested LDR updates focused on private property lighting, which was approved by the Town Council and County Commissioners. This time around, the LDR amendments focus on publicly owned lighting and lighting in the public right of way.
The Town council approved a similar amendment on July 21.
While the applicant proposed 50 changes, key changes include updates to exemptions and display standards, a reduction of lumens per square foot on new development, regulations for outdoor sports facilities and changes for publically owned lighting.
Exempt lighting includes flagpole lighting, public use of emergency lighting, infrastructure repair lighting and lighting modifications by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT).
During the meeting, Erin Monroe, associate long-range planner for the county, shared this example for lumen reduction regulations:
During the meeting, questions arose from the commissioners about how the new amendments would impact lighting in the public right of way in areas such as Highway 390 where wildlife-vehicle collisions are more frequent.
Lighting necessary for road and utility repairs and lighting deemed necessary for public safety as well as any lighting deemed necessary by WYDOT is exempt from the new amendments.
Singer said, “the real issue is with glare as it pertains to wildlife, these new standards are specifically designed to reduce glare using the shielding and other tools. The hope is by reducing glare we can reduce wildlife collision. ”
The LDRs do not include the national parks but Singer explained during the meeting that Grand Teton National Park and Grand Teton National Park Foundation are open to moving the park lighting into dark sky compliance.
According to the International Dark Sky Association, “the benefits that come from IDSC designation are tourism focused.”