Northland News

Residents want options for street lighting

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Some people don't mind being left in the dark.

In fact, they prefer it.

Following a roundtable discussion at last week's Northland Community Council meeting, President Emmanuel V. Remy asked for permission to send a letter to city officials seeking clarification about the residential street lighting program and if a way can't be found for a neighborhood to ask to go to the back of the line for streetlights, if it prefers.

Right now, the program doesn't appear to allow that, according to Remy.

"There really is no opt-out option," he said.

The issue was brought to the council's attention by Michael J. Nee of the Northtowne Park neighborhood, south and east of Northland High School. Northtowne Park was targeted as one of the neighborhoods in a revival of the street lighting program, which dates back to the administration of former Mayor Dana G. "Buck" Rinehart.

A 2009 voter-approved half-percent increase in the city income tax is funding the return of the program, along with many other infrastructure improvement projects.

However, what might have seemed like good news turned to dismay for some in Northtowne Park, according to Nee. That's because the neighborhood has underground utilities, but unless 60 percent of residents agreed to be assessed for decorative street lighting, they'd get lights on poles with overhead wires instead.

Nee objects to what he considers a rather high-handed approach city officials are taking in offering residents only three choices:

* Decorative street lighting through assessments.

* Lights on wood poles with overhead wires at no cost.

* No street lights at all.

As far as Nee is concerned there needs to be:

* None of the above.

What he means by that, he explained at last week's meeting, is that residents should be able to devise their own levels of participation in the program. For example, he said, they could choose to have decorative streetlights, but only on a few of the major streets in a neighborhood.

"That is the policy today: If-you-don't-like-it, you're-stuck-with-it kind of thing," Remy said.

Nee was seeking support for a way to allow residents more flexibility and make the decorative lighting option more affordable, Remy said.

"I'm OK with writing a letter like that," he added.

Sharon Woods Civic Association representative John Kirkpatrick cautioned against expressing negative feelings toward what he sees as a very worthwhile program of extending street lighting to additional Northland neighborhoods.

"We know it's adding to our safety," Kirkpatrick said.

"There's no question that it positively affects home values," Remy conceded.

Development committee Chairman Dave Paul said he feels city officials are "operating off an old playbook" in communicating with the public about residential street lighting. He said it appears as if engineers -- and he's one himself -- are handling the marketing of the program, and that's not really their forte.

The program should be "repackaged" and come with better consumer education, according to Paul.

Nee concurred.

"You don't have to have a degree in marketing or public relations to see that what they're doing is wrong," he said. "They're just killing themselves from a public relations standpoint.

"The negativity didn't start with us."

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