Williamston Debates Dimming Lights in City

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

Williamston city leaders say they had to act after hearing so many citizens complain of bright lights ruining their peace and quiet.

Some residents say the leaders went to far -- by trying to tell residents and businesses how bright their lights can be.

The city's mayor, Kenneth Zicchi, says those residents are a small but vocal group -- stirring up fear over nothing.

As night falls on downtown Williamston, streetlights keep the city lit for anyone walking or driving -- like most any city. But the streetlights in Williamston are a little less bright than most.

Now the city's mayor and some members of the city plan commission want the whole city to turn down the lights.

"We're responding to citizen complaints ... to regulate lights so they stayed on the property they were intending to light, rather than glaring into peoples' eyes off property," Zicchi said.

Depending on where you live, the plan would limit outdoor lightbulbs to 7, 40 or 75 watts -- unless your lights have a shade around them or metal shielding like the city streetlights downtown. Then, acceptable wattages would range from 45 to 400.

The plan is designed to be phased in over the next few years.

Still, some Williamston residents say the regulations are a bit much. And Kevin Smith says brighter lights mean a safer city.

"I think it's part safety, part property rights, part being told to do something that really doesn't make any sense," Smith said.

He says the city's intent -- to prevent bright lights from interfering with neighbors -- is one he can understand. But, Smith says, the solution is more simple.

"I told my neighbors to turn the lights down and they did it."

Mayor Zicchi, on the other hand, says not everyone has such nice neighbors.

Opponents say the ordinance would have a big impact.

"It affects about 90 percent of the city," Smith said.

But the mayor says changes would be minimal.

"The most expensive (change) that is necessary is a light fixture. The least expensive can be as minimal as changing a light bulb. You've got three years to replace it with a different one," Zicchi said.

The lighting ordinance may come up at the next city plan commission meeting in March. But some officials say it's off the table until they can allay citizen fears.

-- in Williamston, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.

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