WASATCH COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – Wasatch County’s light ordinances are changing to reach a middle ground between what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has asked for and what some residents say will ruin their night skies.
The Wasatch County Council established its outdoor lighting regulations in 2002 — and amended them in 2014 — for the purpose of not interfering with the dark skies, which allow residents and tourists to see full starlight at night. The applications for changes to those regulations came as the Church seeks to light its planned future Heber Valley Temple. In order to light the Temple, the code would have to be changed or the Church would have to adhere to the current County regulations.
The Church submitted its applications with a new code that it said provided “guidelines based on industry standards and encourage[s] quality lighting design and fixtures.”
The Church sought to allow for:
- Upward-facing lighting
- Fewer restrictions on shielding
- Brighter 5,000-degree Kelvin lighting, which is akin to noon daylight and direct sun in color temperature
- 55,000 lumens per developed acre.
The Church’s application also sought to set a curfew, so lights were required to be turned off between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.
Public feedback gathered by Wasatch County was largely mixed. The County reportedly received “a large number of letters” that were both for and against the proposal. The public outcry from both sides prompted the County to hire Dr. John Barentine, a consultant with Dark Sky Consulting to help write a new code for outdoor lighting regulations.
Barentine presented his analysis and proposed code on Wednesday, April 19. In his code, he suggested uplighting be approved but only to 25,000 lumens per developed acre as opposed to the Church’s desired 55,000. He also suggested color temperatures don’t surpass 3,000 degrees Kelvin, which is about equal to household light bulbs.
Barinetine’s suggestions also expanded the curfew to require lights to be shut off at the end of the business day or one hour after sunset, whichever is later, and to remain unlit until one hour before sunrise.
On Wednesday, April 19, the Wasatch County Council unanimously approved changes to the light regulations but made their own changes to the Church’s proposal in an attempt to reach that middle ground.
The Wasatch County Council approved the use of upward-facing lighting but altered the curfew. The lights would be required to shut off one hour after sunset or at the end of the business day. The Council made these changes with the understanding that regulations and ordinances are still a “work in progress.” The regulations may change and be tweaked in the future as needed.
A group of residents called Save Wasatch Back Dark Skies said they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the Wasatch County Council’s decision.
“The changes will have a negative impact on the county for decades to come. We view this amendment as poor at best and will continue our efforts to protect night skies for Wasatch County,” said Save Wasatch Back Dark Skies in a statement.
A groundbreaking for the Heber Valley Temple was held in October 2022. It will be built on a 17.9-acre site located southeast of 1400 East Center Street in Heber City. Plans show the temple will be three stories and approximately 88,000 square feet.