Outdoor Lighting Codes and Ordinances in Wisconsin

Last Updated: 10/14/2018

Here are all the outdoor lighting codes and ordinances in Wisconsin that I am aware of.  A big thank you to Scott Lind, PE, of Hollandale, Wisconsin for initially putting together this list in 2007!

Please post a comment or contact me via email if you have additions or updates to this list.

See Sec. 25-53 Outdoor Lighting

Blue Moundsmap





See Section 23.707 Exterior Lighting Standards

Egg Harbormap

Fontana-on-Geneva Lakemap

Fox Crossingmap

Fox Pointmap


Green Lake Countymap


See Section 4.07 Artificial Light and Glare


See Section 10.085 Outdoor Lighting



Mineral Pointmap
Is this lighting ordinance still in effect?  I cannot find it on the Mineral Point website.

See Section e Lighting Standards

New Glarusmap
See Article XVIII Exterior Lighting Plans and Standards

See Section 17.211 Outdoor Lighting

Oconomowoc Lakemap



Shorewood Hillsmap


See sections 9.02(7) Exterior Lighting, and 9.04(7) Exterior Lighting Plan

Sturgeon Baymap
See Section 20.12.(1)(b)12

See Section 17.0608 Lighting


Whitefish Baymap
See Section 16.31 III A2

Williams Baymap
See Section 15.03 Outdoor Lighting and Advertising Signs


The Wisconsin State Law Library maintains a comprehensive list of Wisconsin Ordinances and Codes.  This will be a good resource for us to find additional outdoor lighting codes and ordinances to be added to this list, as well as to check your local government’s codes and ordinances in general.

It is interesting to note that nearly two-thirds of these ordinances are for suburban communities in very light-polluted metro areas.  Another four ordinances are no doubt in place to help protect the Yerkes Observatory (Williams Bay, Geneva, Fontana-on-Geneva Lake, and Delavan).  Where are the rural ordinances and dark sky preserves?  Since there are very few remaining locations in Wisconsin where the night sky is truly dark, shouldn’t we be aggressively protecting those areas?  Wouldn’t it be easier to save a pristine area than to restore an almost hopelessly polluted one? Another interesting point is that upscale suburban communities are much more likely to have a lighting ordinance than more affordable communities.  Some subdivisions even exclude streetlights, but these are almost never places where most of us can afford to live.

8 thoughts on “Outdoor Lighting Codes and Ordinances in Wisconsin”

  1. Are you aware of any others that have surfaced in the last year in Wisconsin?
    I am working on an ordinance in Town of Eagle Wis.
    Enforcement is an issue with Town….do you find more that are enforced by local authority / police / sheriff. Or, do you find zoning to be the muscle behind the penalty?

    1. tom casey,

      as an annoyed, tired, cranky resident of the town of eagle, is there something I could do? the latest for me is an abutter of an abutter who cut down trees in september and now, another light makes night-lights inside my house unnecessary . . . and sleep, I guess, too

      1. let tom casey know, I sent a note with a card and the resident responded positively by screening, or otherwise, toning down the light.

  2. Hi Tom,

    I am not aware of any new or revised lighting ordinances in Wisconsin during the past year, but through a little searching on the internet, I was able to add links to lighting ordinances for the City of Oconomowoc, the City of Appleton, and the Town of Perry. The Town of Perry is particularly interesting as they received a Recognition of Merit from the International Dark-Sky Association for their dark-sky lighting ordinance, enacted in 2009.

    One way to tell that a lighting ordinance was enacted or updated recently is if it addresses LED lighting.

    I am delighted to hear you are working on an outdoor lighting ordinance for the Town of Eagle, Wisconsin. Please keep me apprised of your progress here or via email at mac.com prefix my last name. When your ordinance is passed, please let me know so I can add it here.

    Enforcement is always a problem—that is why the citizens of the town need to be the eyes and ears of the town board and law enforcement. However, the primary purpose of an outdoor lighting ordinance is to set design standards for outdoor lighting. Going through a plan review process before the outdoor lighting is purchased and installed is far better for all parties than going through the expense (and, often, conflict) of remediation. So, to answer your question, I would say that zoning should be the muscle behind the penalty.

    As you consider an outdoor lighting ordinance, ideally it should address the following key areas of concern

    • Light trespass from commercial, residential, and municipal lighting into and onto residential properties
    • All outdoor lighting should be full-cutoff (minimize near-horizontal light—which causes glare, and eliminate direct uplight)
    • Use the lowest effective illumination level needed for the task
    • Use time controls (on/off and dimming) and occupancy sensors wherever possible to save energy and provide illumination only when it is needed
    • LED lighting should have a correlated color temperature (CCT) of 3000K or less (warm white light with less light at the blue end of the spectrum than typical LEDs)

    Existing lighting that does not comply with the ordinance will have to be grandfathered for a period of time (usually several years), unless it is causing objectionable light trespass into or onto a residential property.


  3. I am proud to say that I, with the support of the La Crosse Area Astronomical Society, got the town board of the Town of Holland to promulgate their lighting ordinances . They were very supportive. I now live in Tucson Az. where both the city and county have strict lighting ordinances because of the many observatories in the area. Lighting ordinances are all well and good but you have to keep an eye on businesses & etc. to be sure they adhere to them. We had a large solar farm built near my home and I had to get on their case to correct their lighting. Now we are having a very large scale Bayer/Monsanto facility being built just down the road. I communicated with them to let them know someone was watching. They have a lot of lights but they are full cutoff significantly reducing any L.P. Just have to work on the local high school and their awful athletic field lighting. Don’t expect anything from them till they decide to redo the facility.

  4. Hi Phil,

    I commend your efforts on behalf of good lighting in Wisconsin and now Arizona. As I remember IDA founder David Crawford saying more than once, “our job of education is never done”. Full cutoff is the key, but reasonable light levels are important, too, of course. Overlighting is so common, and disturbing on multiple levels.


    P.S. Based on your comment above, I updated the map link for Holland to the one by La Crosse and not the one by Appleton. I had the wrong Holland but the right ordinance. Thanks!

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