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Wasatch County Planning Department releases new lighting rules ahead of public hearing

Heber Valley residents weighed in on the county's consideration of changes to its lighting rules.
Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce
Heber Valley residents weighed in on the county's consideration of changes to its lighting rules and can still do so at next week's public hearing.

Wasatch County planners have posted a draft of their new lighting code ahead of a public hearing next week. It’s not what the LDS Church asked for, but it is what many in the community said they want.

20 years ago the Wasatch County general plan established a policy to “Preserve the views of the night sky and reduce the health impacts of artificial light by requiring all development to have dark sky compliant lighting.”

Fast forward to 2022, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints asked to amend lighting code and allow bright uplighting on its new temple in Heber. That prompted a review of existing code and a decision to thoroughly overhaul lighting rules.

County residents curious or worried that a new temple could be a bright nighttime beacon can see the new draft rules, which are on the county website andlinked here.

A planning commission public hearing is scheduled for March 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the Senior Center at 465 East 1200 South in Heber.

The proposed updates are more restrictive than what’s in place now – they regulate light trespass, which is light spilling beyond buildings onto other property or into the sky.

They also limit the amount of lumens allowed per acre. Lumens are a unit of measure of emitted light. But that doesn’t mean a building on a large parcel can use the lumens allowed for the whole piece of land in one smaller area, such as on a single building.

The proposed rules define what’s called “improved acreage.” That’s the square footage of a site minus its open space. Using that, lumen limits apply to buildings, parking lots and landscaping, not entire parcels.

Uplighting is allowed under the new code but is limited to 25,000 lumens per improved acre and requires it to be shielded by buildings and not emit light beyond edges of walls and roofs or into the sky.

County staff worked with a dark sky expert who served as a consultant to craft the updates, and also received input from the church. But it’s unclear whether the church agrees with the proposed changes or how the new code would impact design of the Heber Valley temple.

The packet for the meeting includes an electronic folder of emails the county received about the church’s lighting request. Thirty-five people or groups wrote to oppose allowing uplighting on the church, including the general manager of the Red Ledges Community Association, which represents homeowners across from the future temple site.

A group called Save Wasatch Back Dark Skies sent results of a survey it conducted showing 95 % of respondents want dark sky guidelines maintained and enforced. The group said 986 people favor the dark skies regulations and 43 oppose them.

Nine people emailed the county in favor of the church’s plans. And a change.org survey titled “Let the light shine on the temple” had garnered more than 2,000 signatures by Friday afternoon.

After the planning commission makes its recommendation, the code amendment will head to the county council for a vote.

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