Billings to look at establishing dark sky, events permit bylaws

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KAGAWONG – Billings Township council has given the go ahead for the township bylaw enforcement officer to look at creating both a dark sky and events permit bylaw for the township.

“Arthur Moran (Billings bylaw enforcement officer) is looking at creating these bylaws if council feel they are worth pursuing,” stated Billings Councillor Bryan Barker, who chaired last week’s council meeting. 

Mr. Moran explained, “over the course of the summer, I have been approached by township residents who are requesting that the township undertake the task of producing a dark sky bylaw. In reviewing the dark sky bylaws of other municipalities, I can see that a dark sky bylaw will require a commitment from the township and of all township residents to achieve the desired effects that some residents are looking to obtain.”

Some of the issues that may be encountered, said Mr. Moran, is regarding residents’ willingness to change the types of lighting and fixtures currently used on their properties, and location of residences within the township. For instance, rural/shoreline/hamlet requiring lighting changes. “I am asking if council wishes for me to proceed to create a dark sky bylaw for the township.”

“It has been interesting to hear over the last couple of years from tourists, many from southern Ontario, who have explained that due to the pollution in the air they are not able to see the dark sky where they live,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. “If we can establish a policy to keep our dark sky it can be a huge advantage to our local communities.” 

Councillor Alkenbrack explained under similar dark sky bylaw policies in place in other areas, “it asks that people lights shine down on the road, not into the sky. If people know why this is requested, they will comply. I’m supportive of you moving on this, Arthur.” 

“I agree,” stated Councillor Sharon Jackson. “At least two local municipalities on Manitoulin have a dark sky bylaw, Central Manitoulin and Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands.” She pointed out the penalty for not following the bylaw is a fine of $100 in other communities.

“Anywhere you look on the Island should be dark sky,” said Councillor Jackson. “It’s important to keep our area as natural as we can. I support Arthur creating a dark sky bylaw.”

Councillor Michael Hunt said he is in, “a mixed situation. I agree with lighting needed as a safety factor, but I agree with Councillors Alkenbrack and Jackson, as long as the light points down and are still safe and efficient.” 

Councillor Barker also indicated he is in support of the dark sky bylaw being created. “I’m in favour of Arthur producing a dark sky bylaw. I would like to see it in in draft form, as well as those from a couple of other municipalities, to make a comparison.” 

Mr. Moran also explained in a letter to council in regards to an events bylaw, “as part of the ongoing process of the township protecting itself from liability exposures, I believe that it would be prudent for the township to have a bylaw requiring event permits to be a requirement for individuals or organizations who will be organizing or running events that will assist in the following areas: making council, staff and public works aware that an event is taking place that may be on or includes township property; giving staff an opportunity to determine if there are any liability exposures to the township;  giving staff and public works an opportunity to have input if there are any effects on the township resources.”

“I am asking if council wishes for me to proceed to create a bylaw for an event permit requirement for the township,” asked Mr. Moran.

Councillor Alkenbrack said, “we need to make sure that a bylaw will not stop or impede people from having events. People need to be able to organize and have events, as they benefit the community.” 

“I agree with Councillor Alkenbrack, as long as the person organizing an event is following regulations,” said Councillor Hunt. 

“I agree with both councillors, we don’t want to discourage people from holding events,” said Councillor Jackson, noting three separate festivals that have taken place in the community over the past few weeks. 

Councillor Barker noted, “this bylaw would be strictly for township property, or those that flow onto township property. It would reduce the liability to the township. We encourage people to have events. If a bylaw were in place this would be all laid out properly. I understand from the comments that council approves Arthur starting to prepare something and bring it back to council.”