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Village Board considers rules for outdoor lighting

East Aurora has a reputation for saying "no" quite a bit -- especially to things like drive-through restaurants and big-box retail development.

Now, it's taking a close look at outdoor lighting, including regulating the timing of Christmas lighting at homes and businesses and how soon they would have to pull the plug on them once the holidays end.

"I'm not comfortable telling somebody they can't have Christmas lights on at their home" at a certain time, Trustee Patrick McDonnell said when the Village Board got its first look at a preliminary draft of a 17-page light code compiled by resident Robert Warhus.

The light code, which village officials have been coordinating with Warhus, aims to address safety, protection and quality-of-life issues, all keeping in mind the village's quaint character.

Village leaders have generally embraced the proposal, which calls for clear guidelines for outdoor lighting, including sign lighting.

But during a work session Monday, the board wasted no time scrapping a one-paragraph section that would have placed severe restrictions on residential and commercial holiday lighting.

The board did not embrace proposed stipulations that would have limited residential and commercial holiday lights from Nov. 1 to Jan. 7. Flashing holiday lights would have been prohibited, and holiday lights would have had to be turned off by 11 p.m.

Businesses would have been encouraged to turn off their holiday lights after they closed for the day.

But with the overall light code in its infancy, village trustees already sensed the holiday lighting restrictions would have met with stiff resistance.

"There are people who celebrate more than Christmas and Thanksgiving," Trustee Keith Bender said. "Sycamore Street would not be Sycamore Street without the Cliffords' house," he said, referring to a home that is lit up on Fourth of July and Halloween.

"I think it's a little early on the removal of holiday lights," Trustee Ernest Scheer said, referring to the suggested dates. "Plus, you get into a muddy area, whether white lights are used for Christmas or not."

Many trustees noted that white lights are often used for yard decorations for homes and on some business windows during the year, outside of the traditional Christmas holiday season.

"It's a long, dark winter. I don't mind some lights," Trustee Libby Weberg said.

Aside from ditching the holiday lighting component, board members focused on compliance factors and whether businesses would be given a few years to comply -- or whether a grandfather clause would exist for some longtime stores.

"We won't see the effects of this code if we grandfather everything," Weberg said.

Mayor David DiPietro added: "I'm sure there's some businesses that for $50 can tweak their lights and be in compliance. Some would be proactive and put them up right away."

Warhus stressed that he didn't "create" the light code proposal but crafted one by pulling pieces of existing codes from communities across the country, and he suggested the village tweak it to meets its needs.

"East Aurora has an opportunity to define itself with a modern lighting code based on the latest technology," Warhus said, emphasizing a push for shield lighting on fixtures with the exception of historic lighting in the community.

The village plans for Warhus to present the proposed light code to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals before the board reviews it again at its Feb. 12 work session.

It is very specific, homing in on such issues as string lighting, outdoor patios, accent lighting and the positioning of outdoor lights.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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