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Concerns loom over outdoor lighting bill in Maui County

Maui County attorneys are concerned over the county’s ability to comply and enforce a proposed measure that aims to address light pollution and mitigate threats to native Hawaiian seabirds.

They say Bill 21, which is up for first reading at Tuesday’s Maui County Council meeting, would regulate all outdoor lighting fixtures, including swimming pool and decorative lighting and prohibit flood lights, lighting for safety purposes along with lighting used at outdoor events such as the Maui Fair, food truck areas and private sports facilities such as golf courses and driving ranges.

Because of the concerns, the Department of Corporation Counsel has submitted a memo to the council detailing why Bill 21 was not approved as to legality. It also includes a replacement draft bill “that achieves the same environmental policy goals while being enforceable and retaining existing exemptions for common residential and business lighting,” according to a news release Friday afternoon from Mayor Michael Victorino’s Office.

When asked if Victorino supported the bill or corporation counsel’s position, Maui County Communications Director Brian Perry would not specify the mayor’s stance, saying “for now it’s corp counsel’s concerns.”

Council Member Kelly King, who proposed the bill, said in an email Friday evening, that “over the course of multiple committee meetings, information was presented by scientists, lighting experts and environmental advocates which helped to craft the version of Bill 21” that is on the council agenda for Tuesday.

“A majority of my colleagues on the Climate Action, Resilience and Environment Committee were able to understand the science and recommend the bill for passage, with only one council member dissenting,” King added.

She also took aim at Victorino, comparing the situation to the Lahaina injection wells lawsuit, in which the mayor decided to move forward with the county’s appeal over its need for permits to operate the injection wells. The case, which took years to resolve, ended with the plaintiffs prevailing over the county.

“Just like the Lahaina injection wells lawsuit, the mayor is again on the wrong side of science, using Corporation Counsel to justify an unsubstantiated position and intentionally misleading the public,” she said.

In the bill the committee recommended for passage, it calls that the outdoor light fixtures be light emitting diode fixtures (LED) that are down directed, fully shielded, and mounted as low as physically possible to limit light trespass and reflection off ground surfaces to protect native Hawaiian seabirds from becoming disoriented by artificial light.

Other portions of the bill include that all outdoor lighting fixtures installed prior to the enactment of the ordinance would only be exempt for a period of three years to get the appropriate lights.

Also, lighting for nighttime sports and athletic events held on fields on state Department of Education properties, private school grounds, and county parks and facilities could extend beyond the three-year period if there are no compliant lighting fixtures available that meet industry standards for sporting events.

The county attorneys say that required filters to comply with the bill are not available to the general public and no industry standards exist for such filters.

But King disagrees and said constituents have told her they found lights that comply with the bill which can be found on Amazon.

“These lights are available now.”

King also referred to committee testimony by a lighting supplier on Hawaii island, who also agreed that lighting that complies with the bill can be found now.

King added that similar provisions to Bill 21 are already law on Hawaii island.

The Maui County Council meeting begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The meeting agenda and the bill can be found at www.mauicounty.us, click on Council & Committee, Agendas & Documents.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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