About Dark Sky Community Designation

The Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association strongly believes that achieving Dark Sky Community designation from the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) will be a positive distinction for Fountain Hills and will be one more reason why people might wish to call Fountain Hills home. No other community in our metropolitan area is likely to gain this recognition any time soon. Furthermore, if the goal of constructing a public observatory in Fountain Hills comes to fruition, the Dark Sky Community designation will certainly increase the number of non-residents who will travel to Fountain Hills for a night sky observation experience.

Step one to obtain the prestigious designation of Dark Sky Community is to update the Town’s outdoor lighting ordinance such that it meets the requirements of IDA. After the FH Dark Sky Association worked for over a year with Town staff, communicated regularly with Town leaders, and presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Town Council supported these efforts by unanimously approving updated sign and lighting ordinances on November 3, 2016.

Fortunately, the existing ordinances already had a number of dark sky-friendly regulations, such as shielding requirements, brightness and light trespass limitations, and limits on hours of operation. However, the updated ordinances addresses new technologies that limit Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) to 3000K (Kelvin)* or less, limit lumen density for commercial and multi-family properties, and limit electronic message boards to a brightness of 100 nits.**

Step two is to meet the other IDA requirements for Dark Sky Community designation. Those requirements resulted in the following plan of action for 2017:

  • 1. Provide awareness and education to community
    • a. Give presentations to various community groups
    • b. Develop a Fountain Hills Dark Sky website
    • c. Develop Dark Sky awareness brochure or flyer
  • 2. Obtain broad support from a wide range of community organizations
    • a. Seek supporting letters from organizations to include in application
  • 3. Provide examples of 10 projects that conform to updated ordinance
    • a. Any project going forward, or that occurred within the last 2 years with a lighting plan that conforms to the updated ordinance, qualifies
    • b. Identify any non-conforming lighting whose owner voluntarily updates lighting to conform to new ordinance
  • 4. Offer at least two dark sky awareness events per year
  • 5. Maintain an annual sky brightness measurement program
  • 6. Show municipal support by having Town:
    • a. Conform to the updated ordinance within five years
    • b. Provide information either through flyers, public service announcements, or information on Town website.
  • 7. Obtain letter of nomination support signed by the Mayor and Town Manager to be included with application.
  • 8. Submit comprehensive application to IDA that includes documentation of the above, along with Town history, map of community, copy of updated lighting ordinance, an IDA member nomination letter and any other information deemed helpful.

After all the above is completed by the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association and the application is submitted to IDA, their governing Board will review the information and determine whether designation of Dark Sky Community can be granted to Fountain Hills. The time frame from submission to designation is approximately 2 ½ months.

*The American Medical Association adopted a resolution in 2016 that the CCT of all outdoor lighting not exceed 3000K for health reasons, most specifically sleep disruption which leads to obesity, diabetes, depression, and a host of other health issues.

**The 100-nit maximum for electronic message boards is consistent with a recommendation from an Arizona State University study that determined brightness levels above 100 nits causes temporary blindness for drivers.