An Open Letter to an Unknown Neighbor

We haven’t met yet.  I’m a non-confrontational kind of person (a typical Midwestern trait, I’ve heard), always eager to please and not to offend.  But I want you to know how much your dusk-to-dawn floodlight bothers me.  You see, I’m an astronomer.  I even have a backyard observatory and I would love to show you the wonders of the night sky if you’re interested in seeing what’s up there.  I’m probably the only person in Dodgeville or Iowa County doing astronomical research several nights a week, weather permitting.  I accurately time when asteroids and trans-Neptunian objects pass in front of stars, blocking their light for fractions of a second up to several seconds.  There is a lot we can learn from such events.

When I moved into my house, I had to install thick curtains in my bedroom because your bright light floods into the room all night long every night.  In fact, your light floods into every window on the west side of my house.

I like it dark at night.  It helps me to sleep better and, I’ve heard, sleeping darker is sleeping healthier.  There’s even medical research that supports this.

Being an astronomer, I like to step outside and check the night sky from time to time, look at constellations—see if the northern lights are active.  All of this is a struggle for me now.  But it doesn’t need to be.

I think I know why you want to have this light.  It seems you are trying to light the stairway from your backyard to your front yard for safety reasons when using those stairs at night.  Have you considered putting those floodlights on motion sensors instead of a dusk-to-dawn timer?  You’d save money on bulbs and electricity.  Or, if you really feel you need the light to be on all night long, a better lighting system could be installed that would light your stairs without lighting up your neighbors’ houses and yards.  Can’t afford it?  I’m not wealthy either, but I’d be more than willing to pay for the lighting improvements, because I want to be a good neighbor and having a dark backyard and house at night means that much to me.  Besides, one of the benefits of living in a small town in this beautiful area of rural southwest Wisconsin is getting a decent view of the night sky.  No big city can compete with that.

I’ll even pay for us to hire a professional lighting engineer to do the job right so both you and I (and probably your other neighbors) will be thrilled with the results.  I know enough about lighting to say confidently we will have a win-win situation.  Guaranteed.

I’m looking forward to meeting you and discussing this.  Thank you.

One thought on “An Open Letter to an Unknown Neighbor”

  1. This story has a happy ending! The incandescent floodlight directed toward my house burnt out a few days ago, but recently, on a Friday, they replaced it with a much brighter, much bluer LED floodlight. This made the problem of light flooding into my house and my yard even worse. I had to do something. I wrote up a non-confrontational one-page letter on Saturday morning with three sections of text on the front side (“Introduction”, “The Problem”, and “The Solution”), and photographs of the GlareBuster and ParShield on the back side. In my letter, I suggested that they put in a new light fixture that would do a better job of lighting the stairs and keeping the light on their property, and that I would be willing to foot the bill for the change. I put the letter in an envelope and Saturday afternoon walked over to my neighbor’s house, hoping to talk to them about the issue and give them the letter. They were not home at the time, so I left the letter (which included contact information in the “Introduction” section) at their door. Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from my neighbor and we had a very pleasant conversation. As it turns out, they had no idea their light was causing a problem, and they offered to put their floodlights on a motion sensor. They also installed lower-wattage bulbs and redirected the light so it was not pointing so much at my house and yard. So, now, the lights are very seldom on and when they are, they’re not as much of a problem. I am totally satisfied with this solution. Even though I had had trepidation about confronting my neighbor about the lights, the key was not to confront, but to approach them diplomatically with a solution in hand.

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