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Maui council tweaks proposed outdoor lighting bill

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The Maui County Council continues to tweak an outdoor lighting bill meant to protect seabirds, other wildlife and reduce light pollution. The bill would put restrictions on how strong lights can be, and when they can be used.

The current bill outlines that outdoor light fixtures (with the exception for neon lights) must face downward or have an opaque shield and emit no more than 2% blue light. Exemptions would be applied to low wattage fixtures and string lights used for cultural festivals, sporting events, and temporary, portable lighting used for public safety, road construction or emergencies.

A version of this bill was first introduced in February. But after hours-long testimony in July, the council decided to workshop the legislation some more. Now, it features exemptions for certain sporting events, public safety and other activities, that were not there prior.

Despite the changes, hotels and resorts continue to speak out against it.

Lisa Paulson, a paid lobbyist for the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association, called a provision that would not exempt hotels and transient accommodations would not be exempt, in the bill unfair, urging the council to defer the measure "until the industry is consulted on the loss of income for special event companies, wedding businesses, florist photographers, and equipment rental companies. The fact that special events with temporary lighting can occur at various locations outdoors, except hotel properties is very punitive."

“I don't foresee any activities being stopped or eliminated because of this bill,” King said. “I think it'll just encourage over the next three and a half years for folks to come into compliance to help save our environment, help save our wildlife.”

She said public acceptance will follow if the bill passes.

“Generally the people that have started coming into compliance with some of our other laws like the plastic bag, like the styrofoam ban, like the sunscreen chemical ban, which goes into effect next month. There's already stores that have come into compliance all of the tourist boat companies that I know of are already eliminating those chemicals. And so I'm really impressed with this community and how fast we do get on board once we see the environmental benefits.

If passed, the bill would become effective July 1, 2024, and has a built-in three-year compliance. The bill will be taken up again at the council's next meeting.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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