HUNTING VALLEY — After a lengthy council discussion last week about residents who violate local exterior lighting limitations, Mayor Bruce Mavec said that the village will review and address the issue.
Councilman Bill Mulligan raised concerns about homeowners who fail to follow rules on outdoor lighting. He said the village should enforce outdoor lighting rules with homeowners who violate them. The village needs to clarify what the restrictions are and then make a plan for how to resolve the issue, he said during the June 9 meeting.
Law Director Steve Byron said that all properties are permitted to have 75,000 lumens in exterior lighting. Properties that are larger than 10 acres can have more lumens as long as they do not exceed one lumen per square foot of area to be illuminated, according to the zoning code. For new construction, Mr. Byron said that a lighting plan is part of the building plan that must be submitted to the Architectural Board of Review.
“New construction comes before [the Architectural Board of Review], so they have all the information about what lights are going where,” Mr. Byron said last week after the meeting. “After it’s approved and built, part of the issue is that there may be lights added after the fact. The village can lose control of the process and then we’re into a complaint-based investigation to determine if there is a violation.”
There are other violations named in the ordinance, including glare, light pollution and light trespassing. Mr. Mulligan said that those are subjective. Mr. Byron contended that the terms are defined and if there is a specific issue, the village needs to know about it so it can be addressed.
Councilwoman Nancy Heinen said that the village’s attempts to bring properties into compliance with their lighting ordinances are sometimes unsuccessful. She said that Mr. Cunningham has tried to get residents to turn off bright lights overnight and some do not listen.
“We’ve tried to enforce this,” she said.
Mrs. Heinen also said that sometimes after a home is built, a security company comes and puts up floodlights, which are prohibited. The architectural board of review is not aware because the floodlights were not part of the original drawings that were submitted.
Councilman Bill O’Neill said that the ordinance should focus on the concentration of lumens. He said that the way the ordinance is currently written, a property owner could have many acres and put all of the permitted lumens in a small area.
“It’s the concentration [of lumens] that [is] a problem,” he said.
Mr. Mulligan emphasized that if there is an ordinance to limit lumens in place, it needs to be enforced. For example, the village should ensure that the lighting installed matches with the plan that was approved. Mrs. Heinen questioned what staff members the village has available to go around counting lumens.
“Are we willing to take them to court? That’s where the rubber hits the road here,” she said. Councilman Jerry Medinger said that even if the Planning and Zoning Commission revised the exterior lighting code, council has not agreed that the village would want to prosecute violators in Shaker Heights Municipal Court.
Councilwoman Barbara Burkhart offered an idea to regulate any changes that homeowners make. She said that the village could implement a no-cost permit so whenever a homeowner makes a change to their home, they must get a permit and fill out paperwork so the village building department can keep track of the changes. Mr. Byron said that homeowners are already supposed to do that.
“You guys have got to understand. People do stuff in our village that I don’t know about all the time. For one guy, it’s a cat and mouse game,” Mr. Cunningham said. “I don’t want to take people to court for something like this.”
He said that he calls residents to advise them of their violation and sometimes they fix it then change it back to how they want it. Mr. Byron added that Mr. Cunningham only knows about violators through a complaint-driven system. The law director also reminded council members that they cannot fine someone without a court determination that there was a violation.
According to Mr. Cunningham, no one in the village is currently in violation of the 75,000 lumens per 5 acres rule. There are however, 33 violators for glare, light pollution and light trespassing.
Mayor Mavec suggested that the administration look into the issue before involving the planning commission. He said that there are likely a few violators causing 90 percent of the problem.