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.

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.

Appletonmap
https://www.appleton.org/home/showdocument?id=482
See Sec. 25-53 Outdoor Lighting

Blue Moundsmap
https://www.ecode360.com/27010348

Brookfieldmap
https://www.codepublishing.com/WI/Brookfield/html/Brookfield17/Brookfield17120.html#17.120.070

Chenequamap
https://chenequa.org/wp-content/uploads/Documents/Ordinances/Chap5.pdf

Cloverlandmap
http://www.townofcloverland.org/Documents/Ordinances/Code%203.01%20Lighting.pdf

Delafieldmap
https://library.municode.com/wi/delafield/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=CH17ZOCORERE411_GEPR_17.235OULIAM491

Delavanmap
http://ci.delavan.wi.us/download/departments/building-zoning/zoning-codes/zc_23-7perstand_code.pdf
See Section 23.707 Exterior Lighting Standards

Egg Harbormap
http://eggharborwi.govoffice2.com/vertical/sites/%7B569578EA-93E6-481F-B733-DF3296C08FEE%7D/uploads/%7B7B55219C-9B97-4628-AEF1-445C51A0BB09%7D.PDF

Fontana-on-Geneva Lakemap
https://library.municode.com/wi/fontana-on-geneva_lake/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIIMUCO_CH18ZO_ARTXDEST_S18-165EXLIST

Fox Crossingmap
http://www.foxcrossingwi.gov/wp-content/uploads/Departments/MunicipalCodeBook/Chapter%2029%20%20Development%20Ordinance.pdf

Fox Pointmap
https://www.ecode360.com/14717677

Genevamap
http://www.townofgenevawi.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ORDIN-59-Regulate-Outdoor-Lighting-Advertising-Signs.pdf

Green Lake Countymap
https://ecode360.com/9770791

Hollandmap
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1qD1hgbbNz-bWRSWmlkN2o0eEU/view

Kenoshamap
https://www.kenosha.org/images/GENORD.pdf
See Section 4.07 Artificial Light and Glare

Koshkonongmap
http://koshkonongwi.com/download/outdoor-lighting-ordinance/

Madisonmap
https://www.cityofmadison.com/attorney/ordinances/documents/chapter%2010%20-%20streets,%20alleys,%20sidewalks,%20and%20gutters.pdf
See Section 10.085 Outdoor Lighting

Mequonmap
https://library.municode.com/wi/mequon/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIICOOR_CH58PLDERE_ARTVSISTDECR_DIV2COINPAINMUMIREDE_S58-567OULIIN

Middletonmap
https://www.cityofmiddleton.us/DocumentCenter/View/43/middch33

Mineral Pointmap
https://skythisweek.info/mineralpointlighting.pdf
Is this lighting ordinance still in effect?  I cannot find it on the Mineral Point website.

Mukwonagomap
https://library.municode.com/wi/mukwonago/codes/code_of_ordinances
See Section e Lighting Standards

New Glarusmap
https://newglarusvillage.com/__media/pdfs/ordinances/LightingLandscape.pdf
See Article XVIII Exterior Lighting Plans and Standards

Oconomowocmap
https://www.oconomowoc-wi.gov/DocumentCenter/View/545/Zoning-Ordinance
See Section 17.211 Outdoor Lighting

Oconomowoc Lakemap
http://www.oconlake.com/Documents/ord178.html

Perrymap
https://www.perry-wi.gov//wp-content/uploads/2015/12/DarkSkyLightingOrdinanceAdopted0709.pdf
https://www.perry-wi.gov/?page_id=1596

Richfieldmap
https://ecode360.com/16178580

Shorewood Hillsmap
http://www.shorewood-hills.org/vertical/sites/%7B00D5AF3F-ADFE-4173-AF3A-FC0C1A78DA4B%7D/uploads/Ch_22_Dark_Sky.pdf

Springdalemap
https://townofspringdale.org/uploads/editor/files/Ordinance/031714_pdf_Final_Dark_Sky_Lighting_Ordinance.pdf

Springfieldmap
https://www.town.springfield.wi.us/ordinances/chapter-9/
See sections 9.02(7) Exterior Lighting, and 9.04(7) Exterior Lighting Plan

Sturgeon Baymap
https://library.municode.com/wi/sturgeon_bay/codes/code_of_ordinances
See Section 20.12.(1)(b)12

Sussexmap
http://www.villagesussex.org/vertical/sites/%7B1FD3B636-3BF9-4496-900E-EAA7FFADF5E8%7D/uploads/17.0600_Traffic_Loading_Parking_Access_Storage_and_Lighting-01-2016.pdf
See Section 17.0608 Lighting

Westportmap
http://www.townofwestport.org/Ordinances/Title%209/Title%209%20Chapter%207.pdf

Whitefish Baymap
https://www.ecode360.com/33299555
See Section 16.31 III A2

Williams Baymap
http://www.williamsbay.org/images/doc/Chapter%2015.pdf
See Section 15.03 Outdoor Lighting and Advertising Signs

Winneconnemap
https://ecode360.com/14487227?highlight=260#14487227

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.