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Park City holiday lights face new dark sky rules

A house in Summit County has more than eight trees covered in white lights - September 2021
A house in Summit County has more than eight trees covered in white lights - September 2021

These days it’s not uncommon for holiday lights to go up right after Halloween – or even sooner. But with the new dark sky ordinance in Park City, holiday lights have some new rules and regulations.

It’s that time of year again. Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is around the corner, and holiday lights, also known as winter lights, are popping up all over. Some local homeowners put up tens of thousands of lights around their property.

According to environmental experts, light pollution negatively impacts the migratory patterns of birds as well as nighttime hunters, such as mountain lions. In 2021, Park City enacted a dark skies ordinance that regulates outdoor holiday lights.

Under Park City’s ordinance, seasonal lights are permitted from November 1st to March 1st but must be turned off by 11 p.m. on residential properties. Businesses can leave lights on until midnight. The regulation also stipulates seasonal lights must be confined to the property boundaries of the source.

String lights may be used year-round on decks, porches, and patios, but are not allowed to light landscaping. Those rules apply only within Park City boundaries.

Properties in the Snyderville Basin are subject to Summit County regulations, which specify Nov. 15 through March 1 as seasonal light time and doesn’t require those be shut off at a certain time of night.

Some properties are also governed by homeowners associations, which can enforce their own restrictions.

James Wood owns Crystal Clear Lighting, which installs winter lights. He has hundreds of customers and begins stringing lights in August after the trees have put on the majority of their annual growth. “It's fine to get up there and get the lights on," says Wood. "And so then this time of year, as people are coming into town or just want to have their lights on, it's just a matter of going out and clicking on that timer and now you got your lights and they’re all set up."

As a matter of convenience and safety, Wood ideally likes to get lights up before the first snow falls, but that doesn’t always happen. “We have some deadlines where you know, people have second homes. And they're not coming in until Christmas, or maybe even between Christmas and New Year's." Wood explained. "And so that deadline is to have them up by the 24th. We've even done some that week between Christmas and New Year's because people aren't coming in until, you know, after the first of the year.”

Wood says a 40-foot pine tree takes about 60 sets of lights and costs about $2,000. He said he’s seen people spend $20,000 to light their property for the season.

He thinks people should use their winter lights responsibly and show consideration for those who want to have dark skies. “Pretty much everybody that we work for, you know, we put the lights on timers, so they turn off, you know, around midnight," said Wood. "So that they're not using any needless energy and so that they're not on all night.”

For anyone with concerns about seasonal lights in town, contact Community Code Compliance..