Bob Stone

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Outdoor Lighting

A new Outdoor Lighting By-law passed by Town Council in January 2016 requires that all new developments and existing outdoor fixtures minimize light pollution.

Residents purchasing and installing new outdoor fixtures are required to comply with the bylaw immediately. Property owners with existing outdoor lighting have until January 2026 to bring it into compliance.

Why dark skies are important to Huntsville

The new Outdoor Lighting Bylaw was designed to encourage residents to minimize light pollution, protect the environment, and keep Huntsville attractive to those who value a natural environment and maintain a view of the night stars that most tourists rarely see.

The intent of the bylaw is to encourage the use of lighting to illuminate only what it's intended to. Unless you are standing under the fixture, you shouldn't see the light source.

Please note that in the vast majority of cases, your lighting can achieve the purpose for which it was intended and still be dark sky-friendly and in compliance with the bylaw.

Samples of good and bad light fixtures

What does the new bylaw mean for you?

If you are buying /installing new outdoor fixtures, you are required to ensure that they comply with the bylaw now. While the Town is hoping that residents will be mindful of light pollution and bring existing outdoor lighting into compliance as soon as possible, the bylaw dictates that property owners have until January 2026 to replace existing light fixtures with ones that are in compliance with the bylaw.

Benefits of dark sky-friendly outdoor lighting

  • Lower energy bills. Using only the energy needed to achieve your lighting purposes saves you money
  • Safer environment. Harsh lights cast deep shadows, which can cause tripping hazards and provide places to hide
  • Friendlier neighbour relations. A culture of mutual sensitivity to neighbours and respect for the environment makes better neighbours than tall fences
  • Better quality of life. Less light pollution allows Huntsville to remain the natural haven that it has become known for being, continuing to attract those seeking a high-quality place to live, work and vacation

Types of outdoor lighting

Outdoor Fixtures:  type and positioning: If your outdoor fixtures are unshielded, they need to be replaced with "full cut-off" fixtures - ones that prevent stray light from escaping because the light source is recessed or shielded. Light spillover (also known as light trespass) to neighbouring properties can often be prevented or remedied simply by re-aiming the fixture so that it points downward.

Open Water Lights:
  These cannot be white or red - yellow or amber is encouraged - and must be less than 13 watts compact fluorescent lighting, 60 watts incandescent lighting or 10 watts LED lighting. They need to be used only to illuminate the surface of the weakened ice and be housed in a full cut-off fixture to prevent glare and light trespass across the waterway. Flashing or intermittent lights are prohibited.

Christmas and Holiday Lighting: 
Temporary decoration lights are exempt from the bylaw to a maximum of 20 watts of LED lighting or 100 watts incandescent lighting.

You can find more information on the Muskoka Watershed Council's Dark Sky Lighting Technical Bulletin.

What you can expect from the Town

The Town of Huntsville will be rolling out information for residents and businesses this fall to let everyone know what they can do to ensure their existing fixtures are in compliance with the bylaw as soon as is convenient. While the enforcement period for existing outdoor lighting is relatively long (January 2026) the Town is hoping that if they understand and agree with the reasoning behind the bylaw, residents will want to comply sooner and for all the right reasons.

The Town of Huntsville has begun making changes at the municipal level already. In 2015 the Town began replacing the streetlights in town with LED lights that comply with dark sky recommendations.

What is light pollution and why does it matter?

We do need some light at night, but, "much outdoor lighting used at night is inefficient, overly bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded, and, in many cases, completely unnecessary," says the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). "This light, and the electricity used to create it, is being wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on to the actual objects and areas that people want illuminated."

People often think of streetlights when they think light pollution, but they're not the only culprit. Exterior lights on buildings and overspill from interior lights, advertising, illuminated parking lots and commercial properties, factories, sports venues and even the lights in your garden or on your dock all contribute to light pollution.

The IDA identifies four primary effects of light pollution:

  • Increasing energy consumption from fixtures that emit too much light or shine when and where light is not needed.
    • What you can do: turn off outdoor lights at night or be sure they focus only where they are needed; only use indoor lights at night in rooms where there is activity.
  • Disrupting the ecosystem and wildlife by making night appear more like the day.
    • What you can do: turn off outdoor lights at night or be sure they focus only where they are needed.
  • Harming human health by disrupting our natural circadian rhythm; blue light is noted as particularly harmful.
    • What you can do: Install warm-temperature LED lighting in your home or cottage and download colour temperature apps for your tablets and smartphones. You'll find the IDA's suggestions here.
  • Affecting crime and safety by increasing the depth of shadows and making properties easier to see at night for those with criminal intent, and increasing glare which can have a blinding effect.
    • What you can do: Ensure that your outdoor lighting is truly necessary and then make sure it shines only where you need it to.

Map view showing Huntsville amount of light at night

Light pollution in Huntsville as captured from the NASA Blue Marble Navigator (2012)

Background Information:

For more information contact:

Councillor Bob Stone, Phone: 705-789-1736 (Home)