Brightening Aspen's Nights Responsibly: A Guide to the Updated Outdoor Lighting Code

Stephanie Kroll

As of December 15, 2023, the city of Aspen has ushered in a new era of outdoor lighting with the implementation of the updated Outdoor Lighting Code (Chapter 26.512). Crafted with a focus on national and international dark skies best practices, this comprehensive set of regulations aims to enhance Aspen's commitment to sustainability, energy conservation, and community well-being.

How to Report a Violation

If you spot a violation of the updated lighting code, the city encourages you to submit a complaint via Aspen’s 311 Connect system. This streamlined process ensures that concerns are addressed promptly and in accordance with the new regulations.

Key Resources for Compliance

To support the updated code, the city has provided essential materials to guide residents, businesses, and developers. These resources include:

  1. Guide to Updated City of Aspen Outdoor Lighting Code: A comprehensive guide outlining the regulations and requirements set forth in the updated Outdoor Lighting Code.

  2. Outdoor Lighting Compliance Statement: A tool to help individuals and businesses ensure their outdoor lighting installations comply with the code.

  3. Aspen Outdoor Lighting Compliance Calculator: An interactive tool to assist in calculating and verifying compliance with the outdoor lighting regulations.

Focus Areas of the Updated Policies

The updated policies zero in on critical areas to create a balance between enhancing the aesthetic character of Aspen and addressing potential adverse effects on people and wildlife. Key areas of focus include:

  1. Pedestrian Safety: Striving to reduce accidents and promote the health, safety, and welfare of people.

  2. Glare Reduction: Minimizing obtrusive and glaring light that inhibits human vision and detracts from enjoyment.

  3. Light Pollution Control: Curtailing light pollution to improve the nighttime environment for residents, visitors, and astronomy enthusiasts.

  4. Ecological Protection: Safeguarding local and migrating ecological systems from the adverse effects of artificial light.

  5. Minimizing Light Trespass: Ensuring that light does not trespass across property lines, avoiding disturbance to neighbors and preserving nighttime darkness as a shared natural resource.

  6. Enhancing Clarity in Development Review: Providing clarity for applicants and City review staff in evaluating lighting performance standards during the development review process.

  7. Residential and Commercial Differentiation: Recognizing and differentiating between the lighting needs of residential and commercial areas.

Highlights of the New Law

The updated Outdoor Lighting Code introduces several key highlights:

  1. Compliance with Title 26: All outdoor lighting on private property must adhere to the outdoor lighting regulations outlined in Title 26 of the City’s Municipal Code.

  2. Fixture Replacement Regulations: Fixtures replaced after December 14 must comply with Chapter 26.512 – outdoor lighting regulations.

  3. Light Trespass Definition: Light trespass is now defined as measurable light extending beyond the intended usage area, allowing for enforcement on excess light beyond property lines.

  4. Curfew Hours:

    • Residential Uses: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
    • Non-Residential Uses: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., extending one hour after closing or one hour before opening for businesses operating beyond these hours.
  5. Seasonal Lighting Regulations: Seasonal lighting, previously holiday lighting, is now subject to curfew regulations and permitted only from Nov. 15 to March 1.

  6. River and Lake Protection: No lighting is allowed to be directed towards the Roaring Fork River and its tributaries or Hallam Lake Bluff.

Commitment to Responsible Outdoor Lighting Practices

Haley Hart, the city’s long-range planner, emphasizes Aspen’s commitment to promoting responsible outdoor lighting practices. "Our lighting code hadn’t been updated since 2003, and City Council recognized the need for these changes when it approved the new ordinance during a public hearing on Nov. 14."

For additional information and to ensure compliance with the updated Outdoor Lighting Code, please visit Aspen Outdoor Lighting Code Updates. Aspen looks forward to brighter nights that not only enhance its natural beauty but also contribute to the well-being of the community through responsible outdoor lighting practices.


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