Editor’s Note: The following letter was presented to the Truth or Consequences City Commission during the public comment portion of its meeting today. Signed by 35 citizens and business owners, the letter alerted the commissioners to the signatories’ collective concern that the ongoing change-out of overhead lights downtown posed a threat to the character of T or C’s night skies and its Hot Springs Bathhouse and Commercial Historic District, 56 acres roughly bounded by Post, Van Patten, Pershing and Main streets that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties.
City Manager Morris Madrid responded by assuring the commissioners that LED replacement lights were Dark Skies-appropriate. (Formal Dark Skies designations require communities to meet strict light pollution standards in order in order to preserve optimal viewing of the stars.) Later in the meeting the commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the transfer of $233,416 from the electric utility investment fund to the electric utility operating fund to partially support “pole and lighting replacement.”
Those who wish to endorse the letter writers’ request that the city pause and, if necessary, modify the lighting replacement program in order to ensure the protection of night skies and the preservation of the historic character of downtown may send an email to HistoricPreservationTorC@gmail.com, asking that their names be added to the following letter.
Dear Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, and Members of Our City Commission:
We are writing to make you aware that the light bulbs in the overhead fixtures in the Historic District of Truth or Consequences are being changed out. Where once there were warm-toned, non-invasive, sodium bulbs there are now LEDs that are markedly brighter, of a harsher quality light, and colder in hue.
The LED light bulbs are:
- Impacting our night skies.
- Changing the atmosphere of our historic downtown and potentially adversely affecting its “feeling,” as per . . . [language] from 36 Code of CFR 800.5(a)(1) of the regulations governing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
The preservation and protection of our night sky and historic downtown are key to our community’s economic development. T or C relies on a tourist-based economy. Many people visit (or move to) T or C because of our historic downtown and our town’s close connection to nature.
We ask you to protect and promote these very assets that draw people to our town to spend money in our restaurants, to stay in our hotels and to shop in our locally owned businesses.
We ask the city to:
- Cease replacing light bulbs within the city’s jurisdiction until the right replacement bulbs can be identified.
- Consider simply leaving the existing sodium bulbs. These bulbs have the lowest sky-glow impact and are, in fact, remarkably energy efficient. With technology changing so rapidly, we urge the city to wait to replace bulbs.
- Remedy the impacts that have already been made, (re)replacing bulbs that have been changed. As best we can tell these include lights along the length of Broadway, fixtures on Foch Street, a fixture at the old water tower and fixtures at the station house on Clancy Street, near the river. There may be others.
- Ensure changes to the city’s lighting to preserve our dark skies. We urge the city to consider adopting a “Dark Skies Ordinance.”
- Contact the State Historic Preservation Officer of New Mexico to get specific recommendations on the best, least intrusive, LED light bulbs to use. Should funds for this project be coming from state or federal sources, the city is required under Section106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to undertake an assessment of potential effects to the Historic District.
- Consider that the use of LED lights may potentially impact the health of residents and visitors. LEDs are proven to impact sleep cycles and have been linked to breast and prostate cancer.
We ask our city commission to preserve and protect what our community already has. We have a downtown on the Historic Register. We can see the stars. We ask you to act to protect our night skies and preserve our historic downtown. Doing so is in the best interest of our economic development.
Carolyn E Cazares
Merrill Dicks, Downtown Business Owner
Ingo Hoeppner, Downtown Business Owner
Durrae Johanek, Downtown Business Owner
John Johanek, Downtown Business Owner
Mary M. Kinninger
Robert Moore, Retired Vet
Mario Portillo, Downtown Business Owne
Rob Stroup, Business Owner
Souheir Rawlings, Business Owner, Art & Soul
Lillis Urban, Downtown Business Owner
Therese Van Buskirk
David Vandy, Business Owner
Myra Vandy, Business Owner