An Edgemont resident wants District of North Vancouver to create a new light abatement bylaw that would stop people from installing bright exterior lights on their homes.
Elizabeth Mclenehan says she has been trying for the last three years to get DNV staff to create bylaw that prevents excessive light pollution. She says she has suffered from excessive lighting on the neighbour’s house so bright that she couldn’t sleep despite installing curtains.
“We have spent thousands of dollars trying to limit the light trespass on our property and from intruding into our home through planting of vegetation screens, installation of blackout blinds and so on,” she says.
“I have experienced sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety and as a consequence had two falls last year that resulted in a torn rotator cuff injury. At present, light problems are very poorly dealt with under the Nuisance bylaw and even then District bylaw staff and planning have not been able to address our problem,” she says.
The Edgemont resident first approached DNV staff in 2016 when, she claims, a neighbour installed not only about 70 exterior soffit and other outdoor lighting fixtures but also a water feature with a strobe light that shone off the back of the house at night. After several months of consultation with the district, the coloured light feature was turned off.
Then another neighbour, she says, also installed several soffit, deck and exterior light fixtures as well as in-ground landscaping lights. The house was sold but the light pollution only worsened as the new neighbours moved in and left the lights on 24/7, she says.
“We made numerous efforts both in person and through emails to kindly request they turn the lights off at night, if nothing else along our side as the light intruded into our bedroom and floodlit our entire property. Ultimately it proved to be fruitless,” she says.
Mclenehan also wrote to provincial agencies, including the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing which said that it was up to the local government to limit light pollution. “This was contrary to what the District kept telling us with regard to limiting exterior soffit lights, etc. They continued to claim that they could do nothing about this issue as it fell within the BC Building Code regulations.”
She recently addressed the council and is since waiting to hear back on the bylaw. “Meanwhile, we are anticipating the Halloween and Christmas season with dread because of the extremely bright lights and other decorations,” she says.
While the district doesn’t have a specific light abatement bylaw, outdoor lighting is covered by the Nuisance Abatement Bylaw that includes some restrictions on outdoor lighting. Mclenehan says at the time the bylaw was written 16 years ago, most homes used a garage light, or a porch light or perhaps a few security lights.
In the last few years, however, the Edgemont neighbourhood has seen bigger homes and with them have come bright, decorative exterior lighting. “The majority of these are purely architectural or rather designer elements, serving no other purpose but to broadly illuminate the house. These lights are creating major intrusions onto neighbouring properties in the form or light pooling, light trespass and light pollution.”
She would like DNV to follow Vancouver’s suit which recently upgraded a bylaw to ban any outdoor fixtures that cast light directly into a neighbour’s window or unreasonably disturb the neighbour.