174-12.1 Outdoor Illumination

Proposed Updates to Reduce Light Pollution
Dark Sky Fixtures

As early as the 1970s Astronomers noted the effects of light pollution. They recognized it had become challenging to view the stars with the same clarity, even with their most powerful instruments. Only a few hundred stars can be seen from a typical American suburb, in most cities it is only a few dozen, while at least 2,500 stars should be visible under normal nighttime conditions. However, the negative effects of light pollution go far beyond limited visibility.

Research on insects, turtles, birds, fish, reptiles and other wild-life species shows that light pollution can alter behaviors, foraging areas, and breeding cycles, and not just in urban centers but in rural areas as well. Light pollution disturbs human circadian rhythm leading to sleep disorders. The body produces melatonin levels drop dramatically in the presence of artificial or natural light. Numerous studies suggest that decreasing nocturnal melatonin production levels increases an individual’s risk for developing cancer. In 2016 the American Medical Association issued guidance on the reduction of light pollution to support human health.  

Amidst growing research proving the harmful effects of light pollution many states and individual municipalities have adopted new laws and regulations to decrease light pollution. The Southborough Planning Board is committed to increasing public safety and protecting wild-life by decreasing light pollution though amendments to the town’s lighting bylaw 174-12.1 Outdoor Illumination.

The Planning Board has been discussing potential lighting bylaw updates since April 2019. The board decided to pursue bylaw revision creating the Lighting Bylaw Working Group to vet current best practices and develop draft revisions. In January 2020 a public hearing was formally opened for the proposed Warrant Article. In an effort to increase awareness and answer any question the Lighting Bylaw Working group is hosting public engagement sessions between now and the Annual Town Meeting.

DATE                            TIME                                      LOCATION

February 26, 2020        6:00 PM to 7:00 PM               Senior Center

March 11, 2020            10:00 AM to 12:00 PM            Library

March 26, 2020            6:00 PM to 7:00 PM                Senior Center - CANCELLED due to COVID-19

Links to regulatory organizations and state legislation:





Proposed bylaw language, proposed Rules & Regulations and informational articles: