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“Let There Be Less Light” From My Fairview Archives

Posted by tomgrisak on November 13, 2017
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Here’s a Dallas Morning News article about Fairview written in 2004.  I thought about it after we attended the last Fairview Planning and Zoning meeting.  They were discussing the ordinance limiting lighting to 20,000 lumens per acre to preserve the dark nights.

Several things stood out about this old article.  First, the article said there were 3,500 people in Fairview.  Now there are about 12,000.

It also mentioned the Fairview 7-11 store at Greenville Rd and Stacy as the “anchor” of their commercial development.  Looking at what’s in Fairview’s commercial district now, it’s hard to imagine a 7-11 store was once an anchor.  I understand it took well over a year to negotiate that deal with 7-11 because Fairview wanted to make sure the look was right for the town.  When it opened, it was the busiest 7-11 store in America too.

And finally, one of the people interviewed talked about the need for better lighting around pay phones.  When was the last time you saw a free standing pay phone booth under a street light?  Times have really changed in the past 12 years.

By the way, the further east you go in Fairview, the darker it gets.  That’s because Fairview was developed to keep all of the commercial close to Central Expwy.  In addition, Lake Lavon abuts Fairview on the east side and there are no lights on the lake.  Same with Lucas.

Here’s another interesting tidbit about Fairview.  Did you know it’s against the city ordinances for construction contractors to work on Sunday’s?  If they’re caught, they’ll fine them.

Let There Be Less Light

Dallas Morning News Article – Published May 31, 2004

By SCOTT FARWELL Staff Writer  

Darkness, apparently, is in the eye of the beholder. 

To Josh Sims, who stood under the pallid discord of a Fairview streetlight Thursday night, the inky lid that slides across the night sky is something worth preserving and protecting.

“It makes it feel rural,” he said, leaning against his car. “When it’s dark outside, really dark, you feel like you’re in the country.”

But to Kelly Grigg, who stood in nearly the same spot minutes later, Fairview’s lack of night lights made him feel uneasy.

“Look at that,” he said, motioning to a shadowy figure next to a pay phone. “It would be more comfortable … if this area had better lighting.”

Fairview, population 3,500, may be the only town in Texas with laws that prevent most types of lights from shining upward into the night sky, said Scott Houston, legal services director for the Texas Municipal League.

Many cities, including Allen, Frisco and McKinney, restrict the number and types of lights allowed on businesses, Mr. Houston said, but a cursory check of ordinances did not reveal any other cities attempting to flip the switch on homeowners.

“It’s unusual,” he said. “I don’t see any other cities trying to do this.”

In one of Fairview’s newest housing developments, for example, floodlights may not illuminate the front of a home, or its yard. Decorative lighting is permitted in trees, according to the ordinance, but only if it is pointed downward.

Fairview’s motto, according to Mayor Sim Israeloff, is “Keeping it Country,” and that’s what the “Dark Skies” ordinance attempts to do.

“One of the ways we preserve the character of the town is to keep the skies dark at night so people can see the stars,” he said. “We don’t want the glow of a big city. We don’t want to be a big city; we don’t want to look like a big city. We want to preserve the values of our rural and country lifestyle.”

Fairview officials say they don’t have to look far to see an example of light “pollution,” a term formerly reserved for the spoilage of air and water.

Stacy Road divides Allen, to the south, and Fairview, to the north. On the Allen side, a new CVS Pharmacy casts a halo into the night sky that is visible from an upscale development across the road in Fairview.

But David Hoover, assistant director of planning and development for Allen, said Fairview’s community planners may be blinded by their own idealism.

“Comparing Allen’s commercial development to Fairview is like comparing apples to watermelons,” said Mr. Hoover. “They have a 7-Eleven anchoring their commercial shopping center, so there really is no comparison.”

Mr. Hoover said Allen’s laws prevent light spillover from a commercial development such as CVS, so even though the sky may glow over the building, nearby neighborhoods should not be bothered.

Fairview officials acknowledge that even within their town, lighting standards are inconsistent. In many neighborhoods, floodlights bathe the front of homes, and globes light sidewalks and driveways like runways.

Even Fairview’s Town Hall has lights that would not be allowed in a new residential development.

“I’m embarrassed about it being there,” said Town Manager John Godwin. “It’s probably been there forever, and we need to take them down and fix them.”

The main intent of the law, Mr. Israeloff said, is to force housing developers to install streetlights that are capped at the top, with bulbs recessed in a housing that does not diffuse light. The illumination, he said, should be focused toward the ground, not up or out to the sides.

George D’Hemecourt, a division leader for Lennar Homes, remembers negotiating with Fairview officials over the design, height and installation of streetlights in the 1,100-home Heritage Ranch development east of town.

“The folks in Fairview have their idiosyncrasies,” he said. “The lighting was definitely one of them. I know it took some time, it took some consultant fees and it took some diplomacy to get those street lights in.”

Ronald Clary, former chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, is unapologetic about the inconvenience to developers, and he said he’s not sensitive to ridicule from nearby cities.

He said, if anything, Fairview’s lighting laws need to be tightened.

“We want people to have adequate light, but we want to avoid the excessive light you see in many communities,” he said. “We want to keep it country in Fairview, and the ability to see the stars at night is a big part of that.”


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