By Josh Akeman
Fayetteville has passed a new ordinance to stop the proliferation of LED strip lighting around windows and doors of local businesses. The ordinance will only be in effect for 90 days, however, before council will revisit it. This strategy was chosen as a way to prevent the further spread of similar lighting while also allowing the city time to get input from local businesses on the matter.
The second reading of the proposed ordinance was made at Thursday night's meeting, where Director of Community Development Brian Wismer explained that the bright LED light stripping was becoming more popular in the city. While the city already prevents similar forms of neon lighting, Wismer said some technical differences in the newer LED lighting allowed for businesses to circumvent the intent of the existing ordinance, which is to prevent the sort of bright light strips that many consider unattractive. Wismer said that another business had added the lights since the last city council meeting, and advised council to move quickly.
"The lights are spreading around so I would recommend that we act quickly before they are everywhere. I just want to point out that this does not prohibit LED signs. It's merely the outlining of windows and doors and that sort of thing," Wismer said.
Councilman Ed Johnson agreed that the lighting strips were unattractive and made store fronts "look like Las Vegas," but added that he and councilman Paul Oddo had discussed their concern with passing a new ordinance without taking sufficient time to consider the impact to local businesses. Johnson wondered whether the current ordinance, which has language addressing light intensity, wouldn't already cover this problem anyway.
Wismer explained that in talking to a lighting expert he concluded that the differences in measurements of neon versus LED light intensities might be technical enough that it would be simplest to pass an LED specific ordinance.
"When I read the current ordinance it doesn't appear to me it would address this (LED lighting) situation so I didn't want to take a chance on being challenged on this," Wismer said.
Councilman Walt White preferred the approach of passing the ordinance and then revisiting the matter if deemed necessary, so as to prevent any further spread of the practice.
"I just can't believe if a number of us have heart burn on this we don't go ahead and pass it, then we could come back and put it on the agenda," White said.
The council ultimately agreed, at the advice of City Manager Joe Morton, to pass the ordinance for a 90 day period and then put the matter back to a vote after further information can be gathered.
One Fayetteville resident, Dennis Baker, asked that the council be careful in its writing of the ordinance, concerned that prohibiting lighting based on intensity could prevent businesses from having sufficient exterior lighting for the purpose of crime deterrence.