Nashville leaders propose 'Dark Sky' bill to limit light pollution

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Posted at 5:58 AM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 07:58:01-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new proposal would limit the amount of light pollution allowed for new, commercial buildings built in Davidson County.

"It says use only as much light as you need, only point it where you need it, and if you're not using it, turn it off or dim it. That's the basics," at-large Council Member Burkley Allen, who is sponsoring the bill, said.

The bill, if passed, would create new requirements for commercial and multi-family construction projects. It would not affect residential homes, existing buildings or buildings on Lower Broadway.

"They don't come to look at those stars down there, they're looking at different stars," Allen said with a laugh.

Allen said the proposal is needed because as Nashville has grown bigger, it has grown brighter, too.

"I moved to Nashville in 1982 and you could see all the major constellation from Elmington Park," she explained. "Almost 40 years later, it takes a really, really, really clear night to be able to find two constellations."

It's a complaint shared by Dr. Billy Teets, the resident astronomer at Vanderbilt University's Dyer Observatory in Brentwood.

"Things like galaxies or nebula, we're having an increasingly difficult time being able to see those," he said. "If there was a way that we could reduce light pollution even more to where we could bring back the night sky, I think it would truly inspire a sense of wonder in people."

Allen said the proposal is part of a national "Dark Sky" movement, and could help people's health and their wallets.

"It's about saving energy and it effects human sleep patterns, which has an impact on human health," she said. "So there's a number of reasons as why this is important."

The bill was deferred at Metro Council's latest meeting and is expected to be taken up during a March meeting.