Lyon County seeks to protect the night skies |

Lyon County seeks to protect the night skies

Karen Woodmansee
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Kevin Clifford/Nevada AppealThe Moon, Venus and Jupiter light up the night sky as lights are turned on in Dayton on Monday. The celestial objects appear bigger in the photo due to the long exposure used to capture the image.

Lyon County residents will be able to enjoy the night sky without too many lights from commercial developments if a new ordinance is adopted.

Paul Esswein, senior planner for Lyon County, said the Planning Department has been working on the ordinance for about a month.

He said Lyon County Planning Commissioner Ray Fierro of Dayton had been urging the department to come up with a lighting ordinance to protect the dark skies from being obscured by light from shopping centers and other projects.

“It has been an issue for awhile,” Esswein said.

The ordinance would apply only to commercial areas.

“It’s really nothing different than what we ask for when we issue special use permits,” he said. “Light can’t go off the property and has to be faced down.”

The Lyon County Planning Commission will consider the ordinance at its Tuesday meeting.

Spotlights or searchlights for advertising would be banned under the ordinance, and all fixtures would have to be fully or partially shielded, facing down or away from the sky.

The rules will apply to outdoor light fixtures for commercial buildings and structures, recreational areas, parking lot lighting, landscape lighting, advertising structures and street lighting.

“It doesn’t do anything to reduce the amount of light you can put on a parking lot,” Esswein said. “It just says we don’t want the light going up into the sky. It tends to create this glow in the air and block out the stars and the night sky.”

Recreational facilities must not be illuminated after 11 p.m. except when necessary to conclude a sport or other activity which began before 11 p.m.

Unshielded lighting on buildings are prohibited unless they are less than 150 watts.

Low pressure sodium lamps are preferred, but high pressure lamps are acceptable if they are fully shielded. Mercury vapor lights are prohibited unless shielded.

Illumination of outdoor signs should be directed to the ground, can’t interfere with traffic or limit visibility, and can’t be flashing.

Signs and lights that don’t conform to the ordinance but were in place before its adoption can stay, but any change in fixtures must conform to the ordinance.

Other exemptions to the ordinance include federal and state facilities; night display of the flag of the United States; lighting required by the Federal Aviation Administration for air traffic control and warning purposes.

Lighting installed by a government entity to protect the public is also exempt, as is lighting needed for temporary emergency repairs to public facilities and temporary use of lighting for festivals or special events.

And Christmas decorating aficionados can still light up their homes under the ordinance, so long as they don’t create a safety hazard.

– Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or call 881-7351.