Dark Sky certification option for Rico


To preserve night sky view & promote efficient outdoor lighting

· Trustees Meeting,Dark Sky
broken image

Rico Town Hall illuminated by un-shielded post-top luminaires. This lighting style does not comply with the Rico Land Use Code - see last section below.  Ore Cart photo - January 24, 2024



a report from
Rico Board of Trustees Meeting
January 17, 2024


Dark Sky Colorado representative Aaron Watson from Paonia described via video-conference an opportunity for Rico to obtain Dark Sky certification at the Rico Board of Trustees monthly meeting, January 17, 2024 at Rico Town Hall.

Dark Sky Colorado is “a non-profit organization which helps 'places' get certified as 'dark sky places,'” Aaron explained, and was asked by a Rico community member about certification. Colorado has 15 certified Dark Sky places, including Norwood and Ridgway. San Miguel County is seeking Dark Sky Reserve certification.

“State of Colorado has funding for free consulting for places to become Dark Sky certified. Rico could definitely be eligible for that . . . consulting time.”

“It’s really just an incredible resource, the night sky. We’re seeing a big movement in Colorado of people wanting to protect it, because, as you know, it’s becoming more and more rare. . . . in Western Colorado, we still have access to that night sky.”

Aaron listed local benefits of Dark Sky certification:

  • quality of life
  • retain sense of place
  • preserve mountain scenery
  • view of stars at night
  • good for tourism
  • reduces electric energy consumed for artificial lighting

. . . and described certification requirements:

  • an artificial lighting reduction 'event'
  • night sky measurements
  • a Land-Use Code or Ordinance which regulates lighting
  • an inventory of all public lighting in town to determine which luminaires are compliant and non-compliant

An exterior lighting ordinance or land use code provision should promote responsible outdoor lighting, but not prohibit it, Aaron expained, and described examples:

  • shielding to prevent light from shining up into sky or into neighbors' windows, “to keep light where you need it.”
  • lower color temperature lamps have less impact on the outdoor environment.
  • lumen limits to reduce light pollution beyond the property where light source is located.


broken image

chart source:
Wikimedia Commons
CC BY-SA 3.0



Next Steps

If Town of Rico wishes to seek Dark Sky certification, Aaron proposed Town staff schedule a meeting to look at next steps and create a plan for how to use free consulting hours.


Trustees’ Questions and Comments

Portions of Q&A and Comments below are paraphrased. "Quotations are shown in blue."

. . .

Mayor Nicole Pieterse asked if matching funds from Rico are required for the free consulting.

Aaron: No. Consulting initial stage has 10 free hours. The second stage is 70 hours consulting for each of six applicants, and the application for the second stage is “competitive.” After completing the first stage, Rico could apply for the second stage next year.

Nicole: Now long does certification take and who or what reviews and approves applications?

Aaron: “Certification is by Dark Sky International, of which Dark Sky Colorado is a chapter and assists with application preparation.” Approval process is 2 - 3 years.

Nicole: Does a land use code lighting provision proposed by Town Planning Commission and approved by Board of Trustees require Dark Sky International approval, and can Colorado Dark Sky provide examples?

Aaron: “We have examples and a checklist with all the different aspects you would need to accomplish in your land use code.”

Nicole: “Is that something you could provide without us going much further? I think we’d like to see what we’d be looking at from a code and enforcement standpoint before we go any further.”

Aaron: “Yup.”

Trustee Benn Vernadakis: “I think the public and citizens should be more informed, too. Let’s try to create a community event to educate the rest of the community. Because, being on this side of the table, whatever way we vote, somebody’s going to be upset with us. The more knowledge that the public has, the better chance for your cause.”


Public comments

Darrall Huber: “I did pass a petition around. We got about 30 signatures, roughly, who were in support of it. I was able to on a one-to-one basis explain what the situation would be. Aaron mentioned previously the benefit of astro-tourism, which is a catchy phrase, but it does bring in a pretty interesting group of people that want to visit Dark Sky communities.”

Gerrish Willis: “I lived in a community that was struggling with the heavy-hand of government telling people how to light their yards. . . . Essentially what it does is helps people to put light where they need it If they have a security issue or a safety issue without illuminating the whole sky. It’s really basic stuff. I think our current land use code has restrictions on lights encroaching on other people’s property as it is. Shielding can put a light where you need it without a lot of expense to individuals. I would urge you to embrace the offer that Aaron is providing and say heck, yeah, let’s get the preliminaries done before we have a bunch of meetings. Let’s get an idea of what the potentials here are in Rico and what some of the pitfalls might be, initially, and then move forward If the Board is interested in pursuing it after the initial assessment is done.”

Lauri Adams: “I like the idea, I love looking at the sky, I think it’s a great resource that we have, so let’ protect it.”


More Trustees’ Comments

Trustee Pat Fallon stated concerns for conflicts which may be caused by porch lights, and lack of lodging for prospective Dark Sky tourists. “We have lighting ordinances that we don’t enforce, what’s the difference with new ones? Like Nicole said, I’d really like to see what that new ordinance entails.” He asked if there would be any effect on San Miguel Power Association street lighting or businesses.

Trustee Joe Dillsworth: “I am supportive of pursuing this further, or at least exploring. My only concern would be extra burden on Staff to do some of the things which Aaron mentioned would need to be done to obtain this certification. I think it’s a neat thing. As someone who owns a telescope, I appreciate looking at the night sky. I’m interested in exploring what we need to do to obtain this certification if it’s not terribly burdensome on Staff.”

Nicole suggested that a subcommittee might be appointed to conduct more research, answer these questions and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees, which would relieve Town Staff of additional burden. “I think we need to understand what outside funding sources are available to us, and what the enforcement burden would be on us, and how it might change Main Street, which could be for the better.”


Rico Land Use Code - exterior lighting and signs

204.2. Exterior Lighting 
All exterior lighting shall be shielded. The direct source of all exterior lighting shall not be visible off the property. Minimal lighting is encouraged to prevent undue light pollution of the night sky (lighting for Signs is governed by 206.


206.6 Sign Illumination and Moving Parts 
All signs shall be illuminated by an external lighting source. Internally illuminated signs shall not be permitted. The light from any illuminated sign shall be shaded, shielded, or directed so that the light intensity or brightness will not be objectionable to people in surrounding areas or create a traffic hazard to passing motorists. No sign with flashing or moving lights; changing light intensity, brightness, or color; or any type of moving parts shall be allowed.



See the Stars at Colorado’s Dark Sky Parks and Communities
  Undercover Colorado
  September 5, 2023


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