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Guelph shines light on possible creation of dark sky bylaw

City officials gathering public input into potential light pollution bylaw
The City of Guelph asks residents to provide their feedback for reducing excessive lighting at night and to share their ideas on the development and enforcement of a possible Dark Sky bylaw.

Seeing a starry night sky in the city is becoming few and far between in recent years, due to the use of artificial illumination.

The City of Guelph is asking residents to have their say as to whether they would or would not like to see a light pollution bylaw in the community.

By sharing their thoughts, city officials said it will help to determine if a dark sky bylaw is something residents want and what key considerations are needed if a bylaw is developed.

A dark sky bylaw could be a tool to help reduce light pollution in Guelph.

Doug Godfrey, general manager of operations at the City of Guelph, said light pollution in Canada is growing at six to 10 per cent per year.

“Light pollution is the excessive or inappropriate use of outdoor artificial light that alters the natural patterns of light and dark in ecosystems. This can harm human health as well as birds, bugs, bats, and plants. Some species are already at risk and declining,” Godfrey said.

“Light pollution also makes it hard to stargaze and enjoy celestial events like meteor showers, comets, or planetary appearances.”

Two community workshops were held earlier this month and engagement will be moved online in January with more activities to help better understand perspectives, interests, and ideas from residents.

“We’re currently determining whether the city requires a dark sky bylaw. Council has directed us to engage with the community to gauge their interest in such a bylaw,” Godfrey said.

“By engaging the community, we gain a better understanding of their needs and can provide better recommendations to council. Because we’re still in the process of speaking with and listening to members of the community, we don’t yet know what the recommendations will include.”

Godfrey said recommendations could include the creation of dark sky regulations/bylaws or not regulating lighting.

“Outdoor lighting plays an important role in the general function of a city. It lights streets and sidewalks, and keeps vehicles and pedestrians safe. It allows people to see and access businesses at night. It illuminates events at night, allowing people to enjoy themselves. Efficient LED lighting makes it easier to light up more of the night at a lower cost. This can have benefits. But excess light can generate light pollution,” Godfrey said.

Cities including Mississauga, London and Leamington have adapted similar light pollution bylaws.

A property standards bylaw in Waterloo requires that "all exterior lights shall not cause light to trespass on to adjacent properties that would likely disturb the inhabitants or shine directly into a dwelling unit."

Godfrey said if the Guelph community is interested in a light pollution bylaw, staff will look at community feedback to determine what kinds of regulations would be part of the new bylaw

“It’s also not about turning off lights altogether. Lighting that points downwards has different impacts than light that shines outwards or upwards. There are reasons to consider the way lighting is used and ways to reduce light pollution,” Godfrey said.

“That’s why we’re having these conversations, to get a balanced sense of the needs and wants of the community.”

Godfrey said feedback from residents in the first two workshops suggests a preference for having regulations that tackle light pollution.

"Participants expressed concern with the increasing light pollution in Guelph and want to protect the night sky for future generations," Godfrey said.

"There has been strong participation at both community engagement meetings so far and the city looks forward to hearing from more residents on the online survey."

The survey will be active in January at

“The city will conduct the online survey to get more community perspectives and feedback,” Godfrey said.

“We will also meet with other stakeholders, including Guelph Police, to understand their views. After collecting all the information, staff will present their report and any recommendations to Council in 2024.”