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Dolores hears complaints about new LED street lamps

The town of Dolores is considering ways to mitigate new LED lights being installed for streetlights.
Solutions include choosing a different color, adding shields and reducing unnecessary streetlights

Some Dolores residents say new LED bulbs being installed in streetlights have bright white color and in some cases shine into homes.

Town streetlights are managed by Empire Electric Association for a fee charged to the town per light.

Less costly and longer-lasting LED lights are being installed to replace mercury vapor or high-pressure sodium bulbs, said Empire Business Services Manager Chris Snyder. As older bulbs burn out, they are replaced with LEDs, a trend in other towns as well, including Mancos and Cortez.

So far, eight of the town’s 100 streetlights in Dolores have been switched to the new LED fixtures, said Dolores Town Manager Ken Charles. The town pays about $2,000 per month for Empire to maintain the streetlights.

The new lights cast a whiter color, compared with the orange/yellow glow of previous bulbs.

The change triggered complaints from several residents, and the town has halted the switch to the new lights to work on solutions, Charles said, noting that some residents have expressed support for the LED lights.

During public comment at a Town Board of Trustees meeting, Melissa Watters, of Central Street, said streetlights should not shine into people’s homes or living areas. She noted town lighting needs to comply with the “dark skies” section of the land use code.

Tom Wolfe commented that a streetlight with a new LED bulb at the end of North Fifth Street is not necessary because it is at a dead end road. His neighbors also do not like the new LEDs, he said, including one resident who complains that their living room is now lighted at night.

Town Board member Sheila Wheeler said the new LED light on her street lessens the dark skies needed for viewing the stars. She urged the use of solar panels to power streetlights.

The town is working with Empire Electric on mitigation solutions on the LED lights, Charles said.

They include additional shielding for downward lighting, using LED lights with softer colors and considering reducing streetlights in areas where they are redundant or not needed.

“We have a good working relationship with Empire, and they are holding off on installing anymore until we have direction for them to proceed,” Charles said.

The town has the authority to manage where streetlights are placed outside the state highway corridor and would consider removing certain lights if that is what residents want.

The town is using a test streetlight in the alley between Fifth and Sixth streets to measure brightness of different LED lights and the effectiveness of shielding arrangements to reduce light trespass.

Snyder said Empire is open to offering the town a different color of LED light to help mitigate concerns.

The issue of streetlights brought up a second issue of outside lighting on commercial and residential properties.

The Dolores Planning and Zoning Board has expressed interest in discussing ideas to reduce light pollution in town and promote dark skies for star gazing.

Any new regulation would need to go through the planning and zoning process and have public hearings, said attorney Jon Kelly.

The town has worked with businesses and the school regarding light pollution from new LED lights, Charles said.

The Dolores schools campus, Family Dollar Store and a motel agreed to adjust their new LED lights’ location and direction to reduce impacts to neighbors.

“I’ve heard from townspeople that people move to rural community because it is darker, not having bright lights everywhere,” said board member Chris Holkestad. “I do think this will keep coming up. I get tanner every time I walk by the (new LED streetlight) on 21st Street.”