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Surrey residents petition city to create light pollution bylaws

A fountain outside the Park Avenue apartment building used to light up all night, disrupting the sleep of residents, now it's turned off between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., but some residents feel that's not enough

Laura Stepney is upset about the light that comes from this fountain and keeps her up at night. Rica Talay photo
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Reported by Rica Talay

A Surrey condo dweller has collected almost 200 signatures on a petition to permanently turn off a high-powered lighted fountain that she and her neighbours say disrupts their sleep.

Laura Stepney, who lives in Park Place in Whalley, said she started her online petition in early October to request the building’s owners turn off the invasive light coming from the fountain. The fountain is located in a plaza across from her condo and part of a neighbouring condo development called Park Avenue West.

“It started as just being annoyed by it but then it kind of progressed into me being disturbed by the fact that the city let that happen,” said Stepney, who moved into Park Place in April while Park Avenue West was still under construction.

Stepney, who lives on the 17th floor, said the fountain has 15 high-powered lights that change colours every 30 seconds. She said the lights shine into her window, which disrupts her sleep.

Hoping for light pollution bylaws in Surrey
The fountain changes lights every 30 seconds, and shines bright enough to be seen on the 17th floor. Rica Talay photo

After Stepney filed a nuisance complaint to the city, Park Avenue’s building strata, Rancho Management Services, turned off the fountain between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., according to senior strata agent Gus Ramirez.

“It’s a good step to the right direction but we’re still not there yet,” said Stepney, who contacted the strata but has not received a response. “I guess the big goal that I’m pushing for is I really want Surrey to start talking about some light pollution bylaws.”

Currently, Surrey doesn’t have a bylaw that solely sets rules for light pollution. Such a complaint falls under the nuisance bylaw. Residents must contact a bylaw officer who determines whether the complaint is a nuisance.

City has already taken steps to address lighting issues

Mike Starchuk, a Surrey city councillor who is also chairperson for the city’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee, said a bylaw for light pollution would be “irrational” since Surrey has already taken steps to address lighting concerns.

Starchuk said Surrey has implemented a five-year strategy to replace 28,000 existing streetlights from high-pressure sodium to LED. That strategy, he added, has considered future light-focused developments and their effect on residents and nocturnal animals and insects.

He recommended residents go directly to the city with any concerns.

“There’s a lot of times where people think that creating a petition is the way to go, but contacting the right people… is often a much less onerous job than to walk around the neighbourhood and collect names for a petition,” Starchuk said.

Hoping for more signatures to bring to council

Meanwhile, Stepney is determined to get at least 400 signatures on her petition to match the number of units facing the fountain. She will then present the petition to council.

“Honestly when I started this I did not think I was [going to] get 10 [signatures],” she said. “I had kind of a party in my apartment when I got 10.”

A development currently under construction, Park Boulevard, will be Canada’s first interactive illuminated tower that will have light strips along the side of the building. The building will light up every time the nearby SkyTrain will enter and exit the King George station.

Surrey is not the only city that has fielded complaints about invasive lighting. In 2012, Vancouver city council had to step in to stop the flashing lights from a billboard on B.C. Place that bothered residents.

1 Comment
  1. Barb Chu says

    Are you kidding – a building that lights up every time a Skytrain comes into the station? WHY? It may be cute for the first five minutes, but like the drum set Gramma gave your toddler for Christmas, it will wear out its welcome very quickly.

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