Town of Southold, NY
Suffolk County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Southold 7-27-2010 by L.L. No. 5-2010. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Zoning — See Ch. 280.
172a Figure 1 172b Figure 2

§ 172-1 Title.

This chapter shall be known as the "Exterior Lighting Law."

§ 172-2 Definitions.

Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following terms shall, for the purpose of this chapter, have the meanings as herein defined. Any word or term not noted below shall be used with a meaning as defined in Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language, unabridged (or latest editions):
A luminaire designed for illumination of a broad area. Area lights include, but are not limited to, streetlights, parking lot lights and yard lights over 1,800 lumens.
Light that is used for a specified period of time, which is necessary for location identification, safety, security or public circulation purposes.
Illuminance levels beyond that which is required for safety, as recommended in IESNA Recommended Practices, or higher than five footcandles on any lit surface unless a higher level is indicated on the Table of Limits of Illumination Levels.
Lighting that is mounted, located, lamped or used, whether inside or outside, to illuminate outdoor features. For the purposes of this chapter, lighting which is installed indoors but which is intended to illuminate an area outdoors shall be considered exterior lighting.
The complete lighting assembly (including but not limited to the lamp, housing, ballast, timers, photocells, reflectors, cover glass, lenses, louvers, and shields), including the support assembly (pole or mounting bracket). For purposes of determining total light output from a light fixture, lighting assemblies which may include multiple lamps shall be considered as a single fixture. Also referred to as a "luminaire."
The basic unit of illuminance (the amount of light falling on a surface). Footcandle measurement is taken with a light meter. One footcandle is approximately equal to the illuminance produced by a light source of one candela in intensity, measured on a surface at a one foot distance from the source. Horizontal footcandles measure the illumination striking a horizontal plane. Footcandle values can be measured directly with certain handheld incident light meters.
A classification for a luminaire designed and installed where no light is emitted at or above a horizontal plane running through the lowest point on the luminaire. In addition, the luminous intensity (as measured in candelas) emitted at any angle from 80° up to 90° cannot exceed a numerical value equal to 10% of the lumen rating of the lamp, as reported in a photometric report from the manufacturer. A cutoff; or semi-cutoff design, allows a restricted amount of light emitted above the horizontal and a noncutoff provides no restriction against light emitted above the horizontal.
A luminaire constructed and installed in such a manner that all light emitted by it, either directly from the lamp or a diffusing element, or indirectly by reflection or refraction from any part of the luminaire, is projected below the horizontal. It is the same as a full cutoff luminaire but without any restrictions on light distribution below the horizontal plane, and it can be identified without a manufacturer's report.
Unshielded light from a light source that may result in nuisance or annoyance, discomfort or visual disability.
Temporary lights installed on a residential property which are installed in connection with holiday or religious observances between Thanksgiving and the following January 15.
Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES or IESNA), an organization that establishes updated standards and illumination guidelines for the lighting industry.
The most current publications of the IESNA setting forth illuminance levels for different task areas, e.g., walkways, streets, sports lights, etc.
The density of light falling on any point of a surface, usually measured in footcandles in the United States. See "footcandles."
The source of artificial light as distinguished from the fixture.
Lighting which is positioned and aimed to illuminate foliage, driveways, walkways, patios, decks and other exterior pedestrian areas, whether or not mounted on a structure.
Light fixture or light source, or the effect of light, and all apparatus and wiring to power artificial light.
Any and all nuisances caused by the adverse effect of man-made light, including but not limited to glare, light trespass, skyglow, visual clutter, and wasted energy due to excessive or unnecessary lighting; or artificial light that unnecessarily diminishes the ability to view the night sky or is disruptive to flora and fauna.
The light-emitting part or parts of a fixture, consisting of the lamp or lamps and any transparent or translucent covering over the lamp, as well as any refractors, reflectors, prismatic lenses, mirrors, or diffusers which emit or transmit light.
Light projected across property lines or into the public right of way when it is not required or permitted to do so.
A unit used to measure the amount of light that is produced by a light source. The lumen quantifies the amount of light energy produced by a lamp at the lamp, not by the energy input, which is indicated by the wattage.
The complete lighting assembly (including the lamp, housing, ballasts, photocells, reflectors, lenses and shields), less the support assembly (pole or mounting bracket); a light fixture. For purposes of determining total light output from a luminaire or light fixture, lighting assemblies which include multiple unshielded or partially shielded lamps on a single pole or standard shall be considered as a single unit.
The vertical distance of the light source from natural grade.
Lighting which is unnecessary for pedestrian passage and not generally useful (e.g., decorative and landscape lighting). This includes lighting intended for a specific task or purpose when said task or purpose is not being actively performed (e.g., parking lot illumination and wall-mounted perimeter lights after business hours).
A light fixture that is not fully shielded but incorporates a partial shield around the lamp by opaque barrier(s) such as louvers, shields, and other means in order to prevent the light source from being visible from across property lines, into waterways, or roadways.
Glare or illumination of the night sky, whether direct or reflected.
A ratio that describes uniformity of illuminance across an area. The uniformity ratio may be a ratio of the maximum-to-minimum illuminance or the average-to-minimum illuminance. For example, if the Illuminating Engineering Society recommends an average-to-minimum ratio of 4:1 fur a parking lot, the minimum illuminance should be no less than 1/4 of the average illuminance across the parking lot.
A fixture which, as designed or installed, emits all or part of the light above the lowest part of the light source.

§ 172-3 Conflict with other laws.

In a case where this chapter is found to be in conflict with a provision of any other local law, ordinance, code or regulation, the provision or requirement which is the more restrictive or which establishes the higher standard shall prevail.

§ 172-4 Applicability.

All exterior luminaires installed, replaced or repaired after the effective date of this chapter shall conform to the standards established herein.
All existing residential, private commercial, institutional, and utility-owned or -operated exterior lighting lawfully installed prior to the effective date of this chapter are deemed nonconforming exterior lighting. Such nonconforming exterior lighting shall be brought into compliance with this chapter upon:
The replacement or relocation of such nonconforming exterior lighting fixture; or
Any reconstruction, addition or other improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure before the start of construction of the improvement.

§ 172-5 Standards for exterior lighting.

General requirements:
All exterior lighting shall be designed, located, and lamped to prevent excessive lighting, energy waste, glare, light trespass, and unnecessary skyglow.
All nonessential exterior lighting shall be turned off within 1/2 hour after the close of business and/or when not in use. Lights that are controlled by timers or that are motion-sensor-activated are encouraged to replace existing lighting necessary for safety purposes.
Canopy lights, such as service station lighting, shall be fully recessed and full cutoff luminaires so as to ensure that no light source is visible from or causes glare on public rights-of-way or adjacent properties.
All area lights shall be full cutoff luminaires. See Figures 1 and 2 below.[1]
Editor's Note: Said figures are included at the end of this chapter.
Placement, height and number of fixtures:
All proposed exterior lighting should use the least number of poles/fixtures at the lowest height and at the lowest illuminance levels necessary to safely light the area for the proposed use.
All existing and/or new residential, commercial, institutional and utility exterior lighting shall not cause light trespass and shall protect adjacent properties from glare and excessive lighting.
No luminaires shall be taller than or mounted higher than 35 feet from the ground to their tallest point.
If illuminance grid lighting plans cannot be reviewed or if fixtures do not provide photometrics and bulbs are under 1800 lumens, the following requirements apply:
Pole height shall be no greater than four times the distance to the property line and maximum lumen levels permitted for different fixture heights are as follows:
Mounting Height
Lumen Maximums
500 - 1,000 lumens
600-1,600 lumens
1,000 - 2,000 lumens
1,600 - 2,400 lumens
2,400 - 6,000 lumens
Illuminance and type of lamp:
No luminaire shall be located or concentrated so as to produce glare or direct illumination across the boundary property line, nor shall any such light be of such intensity as to create a nuisance or detract from the use and enjoyment of adjacent property. The maximum illuminance at the property line of a parcel that adjoins a residential parcel or public right of way may not exceed 0.05 footcandle. The maximum illuminance at the property line between two nonresidential properties is 0.1 footcandle.
The average illuminance levels listed in the illumination levels for various common tasks, as provided in the IESNA Recommended Practices Guidelines, shall not be exceeded for exterior lighting unless otherwise specified or approved by the Building Department or the Planning Board. The maximum number of lumens for commercial uses is 25,000 lumens per acre. For proposals in residential and limited business districts the maximum number of lumens is 10,000 lumens per acre. The Town recognizes that not every situation will require lighting, and excessive or unnecessary light shall be avoided. Appropriate lighting levels are dependent upon the general nature of the surroundings and the Building Department or Planning Board may require more or less than those listed in the IESNA Recommended Practices Guidelines. Illuminance level measurements for parking lots, sidewalks, and other walkways shall include any light from nearby side-mounted building lights, freestanding sidewalk lights affected by side-mounted building lights, and existing or proposed streetlights. In no instance may any lighted surface, as installed, exceed five footcandles, as measured horizontally or vertically by a light meter unless it can be demonstrated that a higher level is necessary for the proposed use (higher levels should be based on guidelines established either in the IESNA Handbook or similar professional or governmental guidelines or regulations, (e.g., federal standards establishing lighting levels around automated teller machines).
The light source shall not exceed 3,000 Kelvin.
Streetlights shall be full cutoff high-pressure sodium, low-pressure sodium, or fluorescent, unless otherwise determined that another type is more efficient. Streetlights along residential streets shall not exceed seventy-watt high-pressure sodium (hps) light with a lumen output of 6,400. Streetlights along nonresidential streets or at intersections shall not exceed 150 watts hps each, with a lumen output of 1,600, except the lights at major intersections on state highways shall not exceed 250 watts hps. If a light type other than high-pressure sodium is permitted, then the equivalent output shall be the limit for that light type. Exception: replacements of "historic" lighting design where the replacement of the luminaire piecemeal with compliant luminaires would unacceptably degade the aesthetic characteristics of the existing lighting design.

§ 172-6 Exemptions.

The following exterior lighting is exempt or is partially exempt from the provisions of this chapter:
Vehicular lights, United States Coast-Guard-approved maritime navigational lighting, temporary lighting associated with nighttime roadwork and construction activities, and all temporary emergency lighting needed by fire, ambulance, and police departments or other emergency services are exempt.
Lighting of radio, communication and navigation towers is allowed, provided the owner or occupant demonstrates that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations can only be met through the use of lighting that does not comply with this section, and that the provisions of this section are otherwise met. Tower lighting shall not be permitted unless required by the FAA; in which case, required lighting shall be of the lowest allowed intensity and red, unless otherwise specifically forbidden under the FAA regulations.
Holiday exterior lighting is exempt from provisions regarding shielding; location, mounting height and total wattage, but must be turned off by 12:59:a.m.
Temporary lighting in association with an approved special event permit shall comply with all provisions exclusive of location, mounting height, and total wattage, and shall be extinguished no later than 12:59 a.m. on the date of the approved event.
Upward lighting of the American (and/or other governmental) flag in the form of a single ground-mounted narrow cone spotlight located at the base of the pole which confines the illumination to the flag and limits lumen output to a total of 1,800 lumens (equivalent to 100 watt incandescent) is exempt. The Town encourages the tradition of raising and lowering flags to avoid lighting.
Recreational lighting:
Public recreational lighting shall comply with all provisions of this chapter, exclusive of height and maximum footcandle limits set forth in § 136-5C(2). No public recreational facility shall be illuminated after 11:00 p.m., except to conclude a recreational or sporting event or any other similar activity conducted at or in the facility which was in progress under such illumination prior to 11:00 p.m.
Private recreational lighting shall comply with all provisions of this chapter, exclusive of the maximum footcandle limits set forth in § 136-5C(2). No private recreational lighting shall be illuminated after 11:00 p.m.

§ 172-7 Prohibitions.

The following are prohibited:
Searchlights, other than those required by law.
Strobe lights, laser lights, or revolving lighting.
Blinking, pulsating, tracing or flashing lights.
Lighting which is used to outline or illuminate a building, structure or window, except to light a permitted sign, where such light will be focused downward from above and is lighting only the sign.
Floodlighting or "wall washing" lighting which is designed to illuminate the walls of a building or other structures, except to light a permitted sign, where such light will be focused downward from above and is lighting only the sign.
Any light fixture that may be construed as or confused with a traffic control device or maritime navigational marker.
The following lamp and fixture types shall not be permitted:
High-intensity discharge, including metal halide, and high-pressure and low-pressure sodium.
Mercury vapor.
Lamps rated higher than 3,000 Kelvin in color.
Unshielded light fixtures, except as permitted herein.

§ 172-8 Review procedures.

All applications for sign permits or building permits shall include lighting plans showing the following information to verify that proposed lighting conforms to the provisions of this chapter:
Location of each existing and proposed outdoor light fixture;
Luminaire distribution and type;
Lamp source type;
Mounting height;
Hours of operation; and
Lumen output.
All applications for site plan and subdivision approval shall include lighting plans certified by a licensed professional, luminaire and controls specifications and additional documentation, if any lighting is to be used, regardless of whether the lighting is preexisting or proposed, showing the following to verify that the lighting conforms to the provisions of this chapter:
Location of each current and proposed outdoor lighting fixture indicated on a site plan.
Type and number of fixtures, including cutoff characteristics, indicating manufacturer and model number(s).
Lamp source type, lumen output, and wattage.
Mounting height indicated, with distance noted to nearest property line for each luminaire.
Types of timing devices used to control on/off and the hours set for illumination, as well as the proposed hours when each fixture will be operated.
Shielding and all mounting details, including pole foundation description.
Total lumens for all fixtures and total square footage of areas to be illuminated.
For plans that require three or more fixtures, the submission of a calculations summary indicated all footcandle levels on the lighting plan, noting the maximum, average and minimum as well as the uniformity ratio of maximum to minimum and average to minimum levels.
Lighting manufacturer specifications ("cut sheets") with photographs of the fixtures, indicating the cutoff characteristics of the luminaire.
For plans that require three or more fixtures, the submission of an isometric footcandle distribution diagram indicating the light levels for the fixtures at the designated mounting heights. Maximum illuminance levels should be expressed in footcandle measurements on a grid of the site showing footcandle readings in every ten-foot square. The grid shall include light contributions from all sources (i.e., pole-mounted lights, wall-mounted lights, and signs, including private streetlights).
If necessary, documentation by a lighting engineer showing that the provisions can only be met with a design that does not comply with this section.
For all other exterior lighting which must conform to the requirements of this chapter, the Building Inspector shall issue a decision whether the exterior lighting complies with the standards set forth herein. All such decisions may be appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals within 30 days of the decision. The Zoning Board of Appeals, after a public hearing, may grant variances from the requirements of this chapter.
No exterior lighting shall be altered, enlarged, moved, or converted unless it conforms to a lighting plan approved by the Building Department, Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals.

§ 172-9 Penalties for offenses.

Any action by any person, organization, corporation, group or other entity which violates or does not comply with any provision of this chapter shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 for residential violations and a fine not to exceed $750 for nonresidential violations.
Each continuing day of violation of this chapter shall constitute a separate offense.
In addition to the above-provided penalties, the Town may also maintain an action or proceeding in the name of the Town in a court of competent jurisdiction to compel compliance with or to restrain by injunction the violation of this chapter.