After a second hour-long work session by the Crested Butte Town Council discussing lighting issues in town, the council is directing staff to come up with an ordinance making it clear that lighting in town will be controlled and muted.
The issue originated at the end of the summer after many businesses appeared to expand their lighting on the outside of their buildings and around outdoor dining venues. Some of the council felt lighting was starting to get out of control and wanted to turn down the dimmer. The council is okay with allowing seasonal winter lighting during the ski season. While many council members turned their nose up at “flashing or strobing holiday lighting,” they concluded people should be able to display winter lighting between November 15 and April 15. “It’s an American tradition and right,” commented Councilperson Shaun Matusewicz. “I don’t necessarily like it either, but don’t think we should prohibit it.” “Plus it would be an enforcement nightmare,” said Bob Gillie, town building director. “Not to mention Grinchy,” said Matusewicz. “So technically because of the dates, Halloween lights wouldn’t fit and be allowed under the town rules,” concluded Councilman Glenn Michel. “We have to apply a little common sense with these rules, strange as that may seem,” responded Gillie. “You’re right. And we might see little lighted bunnies around Easter. Do you want us to enforce that?” The council lightened up and agreed that temporary ornamental lighting was fine and didn’t need town review. As for architectural lighting that highlighted local buildings, the council wanted to make sure it didn’t go overboard. So aside from lights already up, the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) will have to approve any new such lighting. No colored lights will be allowed and lights can be used only to highlight one of the building’s features such as the parapet. The council wanted to tone down so-called “Bistro Lighting” being used by local restaurants to enhance the new outdoor seating spaces. Council wants all of that type of lighting approved by BOZAR—it needs to meet the electrical code and be “night-sky compliant.” The new rules would essentially eliminate most of the overhead string lighting that was common last summer. In a memo to the council, Gillie estimated the new lighting regulations could result in several thousand dollars being spent by local businesses to upgrade their lighting. The council determined it just wanted to make sure that lighting in town didn’t get out of control. “The most important thing is to have a level playing field so we don’t have an arms race of lights with everyone trying to outdo each other,” said Councilperson Jim Schmidt. Mayor Aaron Huckstep questioned the need for night-sky compliant lights in the town’s main downtown business district. “The night sky is very important to people up here, including visitors,” said Councilman Michel. “I also think it creates a nice hue that’s not overdone.” “It’s not a big deal to me in the business district,” responded Councilperson David Owen. But a majority of the council disagreed with him and asked for the downward-pointing lights. The staff will bring back a new and rigorous lighting ordinance for the council to consider at an upcoming meeting.