If you like to go outside at night and stargaze, you aren’t alone. Payson wants to protect that starry view by becoming a designated International Dark Sky Community.
The move, they hope, will be a tourism draw. Many of the tourists that visit Payson are from the Valley where the city glows under plenty of outdoor lighting, but the sky, except for a few planets, is mostly dim.
Sedona and Flagstaff are already part of 14 communities around the world with the International Dark Sky Community badge, environmentally conscious places that promote stewardship of the night sky, according to a town memo.
The idea of registering with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), a nonprofit organization founded in 1988, with headquarters in Tucson, said Sheila DeSchaaf, with community development. DeSchaaf did not know the name of the group.
“As a tourism-driven community, the night sky is an important contribution toward Payson being Arizona’s Cool Mountain Town, and that must be preserved,” wrote Trevor Fleetham, with planning.
To qualify for the Dark-Sky designation the town would have to make some minimal changes to its current code.
“Our dark-sky provisions have been in place since approximately 1998 and in some cases are already more stringent than some of the guidelines from IDA,” DeSchaaf said in an email. “There are a few things that all of the communities endorsed by IDA that we would need to add such as a maximum number of lumens per acre, whereas currently our requirements are somewhat less specific and state that lighting shall be of a minimum necessary to serve the purpose intended and light may not trespass beyond the property line, etc.”
The current Unified Development Code has provisions that regulate outdoor lights, such that they are shielded and shine down.
“Our current standard actually requires the source of the illumination (essentially the bulb) to be shielded. Light is not allowed to shine up or out, whereas the IDA standards regulate only light shining upward into the sky,” DeSchaaf said.
The town adopted this due to the varying elevations in the area where a light shielded from the sky could still be a nuisance to a neighboring property, especially if the light were on a home at a higher elevation.
The town would likely adopt a maximum lumens per acre cap that would be applicable to new commercial construction.
Current regulations are quantified in foot-candles.
The council Thursday agreed to move forward with the process to become a Dark Sky Community, directing staff to draft the necessary updates to the town code.
There will be several public hearings before any code changes occur, during which time staff will address any amendments.