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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

When shining a light is no midnight special [editorial]

Given modern technology, it shouldn't be terribly difficult to come to some kind of accommodation with regard to the problems with light around car dealerships in Fallston.

At this point, the matter is possibly too far along the path of litigation to be quickly or easily resolved. At issue are people who live in close proximity to Jones Junction – a car dealership that has been operating in Fallston for generations – who claim they are the victims of "light trespass." In other words, bright lights used to illuminate the car dealership, presumably to improve its visibility to potential customers and ward off potential thieves and vandals, spills over into the yards and homes of people living nearby.

The matter has been contested in court, and there is a bill before the Harford County Council that would regulate the amount of light allowed to spill from one property onto another. The bill before the county council treats the matter kind of like noise laws that regulate when and how much noise can spill out of a party into another person's home.

As a practical matter, both sides in the dispute have very real concerns. People have a right to be reasonably free from having their lives intruded upon by things like light from neighboring properties. Business owners have a right to take full advantage of what they're allowed to do under the law, and to take measures to protect their property, including making sure that property is well lighted.

Also there's the matter of the dealership having been in place since long before any complaints in the latest round were filed, though the dealership hasn't always been as large or brightly lighted as it is in modern times.

What went on in the past, however, is something that likely could be addressed were modern technology applied and accommodations made. Time was it took high wattage bulbs in high places to fully illuminate a large area like a car dealership's lots. Lighting technology has come a long way in the past 30 to 40 years. The massive banks of lights it took to make night games possible at Memorial Stadium way back when have long since been replaced by more efficient, and finely targeted banks of lights at Camden Yards.

Other places built in recent years have been obliged, or have taken it upon themselves, to make use of lighting equipment that controls the direction of the beams, generally keeping illumination at ground level.

While it wouldn't be practical to light a car lot the same way as, for example, a church parking lot, it's also not practical to expect people to endure unnatural exposure to bright lights at odd hours.

It does seem like it should be practical, however, given the kinds of lighting technology that have come into being in recent years, to make some sort of arrangement that is, if not ideal for all affected, at least not irritating or burdensome to all involved.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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