Residents of McLean should be applauded for standing up to the corporate fast-food chain restaurants and gas stations that are making suburbia "glow" from the use of excessive and inexpensive site lighting under the auspices of "safety" ["Bright Lights Have Residents Glaring," Metro, July 4].

Lighting professionals, when directed, can develop lighting plans that are safe and effective. Such designs typically use downlight-type shielded fixtures that direct light to where it's needed -- not into the sky, across the street, onto adjacent properties or into motorists' eyes. The use of flood lights or wall-mounted fixtures that typically are the least expensive and offer no shielding are the main cause of suburbia's "glow."

Montgomery County, like McLean, has an antiquated lighting ordinance, and Kensington's town council is formulating legislation to greatly reduce suburban "glow," glare and light pollution.

First, we will not permit any light to extend above its light source (the lamp or bulb). This will mitigate the wattage that extends above a project or over a commercial area as a whole. Second, we require that site lighting remain within the confines of the property lines. Lighting will not be allowed to shine onto adjacent properties or buildings, into the public rights of way other than sidewalks or into the eyes of traveling motorists. The concept known as "light trespass" will be introduced, which is similar to existing regulations that prohibit the diversion of runoff over property lines.

The residents of McLean and other suburban communities need to keep pressure on their elected officials to perform their legislative duties and update their antiquated codes.


Council Member

Town of Kensington


If there's one thing driving outdoor lighting reform advocates crazier than the easily solvable nature of light pollution, it's the red herrings spawned to justify retailer's "glare wars."

Eric Wee's article says many Washington area McDonald's have dramatically increased illumination levels in response to a survey presumably conducted by McDonald's. "We certainly wanted to address these concerns and do everything we could to make customers feel perfectly safe," said company spokeswoman Lisa Howard. "And crime has significantly dropped because of the brighter lights."

Really? Criminologists at the University of Maryland conducted an extensive study presented to Congress, called "Preventing Crime, What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising." They concluded that "the effectiveness of lighting is unknown."

Citing ATM machines, for example, their study notes that security lighting makes patrons more visible to passing offenders. "Who the lighting serves is unclear," it says. Previous U.S. government studies said much the same.

McDonald's has an opportunity to help correct a growing nuisance created out of a false perception that could create a false sense of security.



The writer is chairman of the Indiana Council on Outdoor Lighting Education.