March 14, 2013
Tiobe Barron, OVN Correspondent
The Ojai City Council pulled the plug on the proposed exterior lighting ordinance Tuesday, citing concerns ranging from unclear language to whether the changes would be effective at all.
The ordinance primarily targets restrictions on the amount of light output measured at the property line, with different allotments for commercial and residential zones.
The council directed staff to present a modified ordinance at its next meeting, April 9.
“We had a very qualitative ordinance, and we’re going toward a quantitative one, and that was really at the insistence of the public and the Planning Commission,” explained Rob Mullane, Community Development director.
“It’s about living together in a community and being considerate. I think it’s not that much to ask, for people to shield their lights. I think one of the big misconceptions we have been brainwashed into thinking is that a bright light shining out is making us safe, and the reality is that’s an old wives’ tale; shielded lights actually do a better job at making us safe, so I don’t think it’s an unreasonable thing to ask,” said Councilwoman Betsy Clapp.
City attorney Joseph Fletcher clarified that the Council cannot require residents to retrofit their lighting fixtures without monetarily compensating them, unless the property in question is new construction or is undergoing renovations that total 25 percent or more of the property’s total cost. For existing older light fixtures that do not meet the desired standards, all the City Council can legally request is that the property owner either change the light bulb to a lower wattage, or turn off any non-essential exterior lights after the 10 p.m. curfew.
“Quite frankly, to get it right, if it takes us six times, I think we ought to take as many times as it needs,” said Mayor Paul Blatz after discussion that the ordinance would not pass on to a second reading.
They did, however, move forward on other issues; they approved two well permit applications — one for Ojai Valley School and one for a homeowner — that had previously failed to pass for lack of a second at the last council meeting.
“When it came before us the last time … we were in essence told that we really didn’t have any authority over the approval of the wells, what we were in essence doing was approving the construction…which we in essence had absolutely no information before us about,” said Mayor Blatz.
Offered city manager Rob Clark, “The ordinance on our books that relates to water wells precedes the formation of the Groundwater Basin Management authority, and it specifically gives the council the responsibility of looking at the groundwater supply, and also the safety issues. Since that time, the (Ojai) Basin Groundwater Management Agency was formed, and really that’s their mission in life, is to assure that. So what we’re saying here is that we recommend you rely on their expertise to give you input on that.”
Jordan Kear, staff hydrogeologist for the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency (OBGMA), stepped forward on behalf of Ojai Valley School, which requested a permit in order to irrigate one its sports fields. “Currently, before a well would go in, that field is irrigated with water supplied by Golden State Water Company … If that well is constructed, and that 12 acre-feet (to irrigate the field) is extracted from the area of that basin, it is decentralizing the pumping depression, and there is no net change in the extraction of the groundwater basin vs. current conditions.”
Added Ojai Valley School President Michael Hall-Mounsey, “I just want to reassure the council that we have a very big initiative over the last several years to conserve. We have worked with Casitas (Municipal) Water District, we have installed new meters, we have audited all of our electricity, water, gas, have switched over to non-toxic treatments in soil amendments. We have done everything we can as an educational institution to demonstrate how we can leave a smaller carbon footprint. This is a small project for us in the sense that it is a 2-acre field, but it demonstrates sustainability and a responsible position for our school and community.”
All council members voted to approve the permits, with the exception of Councilwoman Carol Smith, who cited concerns that Golden State Water Company would pass along the financial loss via increased rates to the rest of their water customers.
Visit www.ci.ojai.ca.us for more information.