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Light leads to dispute

Jillian and Michael Powers say they love living in rural Nevada County partly because the nights are so dark. Now they say they feel this right is threatened where they live on Round Mountain. They said Tuesday a neighbor has been abusively shining a high-powered mercury vapor light onto their property “for spite.”

“It is important that we keep our rural areas rural. Not all areas should have bright lights like the Brunswick basin,” Michael Powers said.

The Powerses appealed to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors Tuesday to take steps to create a law protecting rural parts of the county from invasive lights from neighboring properties. The couple was accompanied by their daughter and friends, who say they have had experiences with “light pollution,” as well.



Supervisor Peter Van Zant brought the issue to the board, saying that it is something the board should at least begin to address, considering the increasing urbanization of the county.

Supervisor Barbara Green also agreed steps should be taken to preserve residents’ right to darkness in rural areas, but Supervisors Sue Horne and Robin Sutherland strongly dissented, leaving the board deadlocked 2-2.




Horne called the plea for an ordinance an “over-zealous approach and a waste of county resources.” She encouraged the Powerses to come to an agreement with the neighbor.

Sutherland agreed, adding that light is important for disabled residents and the elderly.

The issue could be considered a property-rights issue on both sides. “As we urbanize, it is a good time to balance those freedoms,” Van Zant said.

For the Powerses, however, the issue is about the right to experience darkness at night.

“I don’t think any human being should take away another person’s nighttime. It is unethical,” said Jillian Powers.

Jillian Powers said they have tried to seek help from the law and codes, including applying for a temporary restraining order, but feel if there were an ordinance their rights could be more well-protected.

“We are on the verge of the future. You won’t have to reinvent the wheel to create an ordinance,” Jillian Powers said.

Horne had a different idea.

“There is an ordinance called disturbing the peace,” she said.

If Nevada County were to create an ordinance, they would be following along with several other rapidly developing communities, both within the county and nationwide.

Green said the Truckee area’s large Tahoe Donner subdivision has light regulations. Lake Wildwood also has a light ordinance, Sutherland said.


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