A comparison between sodium lights and LED lights, which the Town of Qualicum Beach has choses for its streetlights to make it safe for motorists. (Submitted photo)

A comparison between sodium lights and LED lights, which the Town of Qualicum Beach has choses for its streetlights to make it safe for motorists. (Submitted photo)

‘High-beam monsters’ bring ‘bright lights, big city’ problems to sleepy Qualicum Beach

Brightness of LED streetlights blamed for keeping people awake, causing nightmare for residents

“High-beam monsters” are causing nightmares in Qualicum Beach.

Some residents in Qualicum Beach report struggling to get much-needed sleep at night and blame LED lights the town uses to illuminate the streets and other parts of the community.

One resident, Randi Stevenson, wrote a letter to raise concerns with town council.

“I realized our streetlights may have been considered too dim in the past but when did we get these new high-beam monsters installed?” Stevenson asked. “I can no longer experience normal night darkness and they are truly affecting my sleep cycle.”

Stevenson requested the town tone down the brightness, turn them off or dim them through the overnight hours.

“The light well extends into my home now… and I can no longer enjoy stargazing from my deck at night due to the glaring lights in my eyes,” Stevenson said. “I moved from the big city to be closer to nature and this one small change has taken that away.”

Coun. Teunis Westbroek has also received emails from other residents complaining about the bright lights which he regards as “light pollution.” Residents have asked him if there was a way the town could retrofit the lights and go from 4,000 lumens to 3,000 lumens. He asked staff if this was possible.

Director of engineering Bob Weir explained to council at its regular meeting on Feb. 3 that when they decided to replace the old sodium lights with LED ones 12 years ago, it was mainly for safety reasons.

“The research definitely shows that its a higher quality of light and there’s a 30 to 40 per cent increase in distances on which drivers can recognized hazards,” said Weir.

Going down to 3,000 lumens will not make a big difference said Weir, who presented council an image that showed how much brighter 4,000 lumens is from 3,000.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that significant to deal with all the concerns people are dealing with,” said Weir. “You can change every light in town overnight and there would be very little perception of the difference.”

Weir also added BC Hydro does not offer shielding for the lights, which some residents have suggested. He pointed out replacing the lights will also come a cost and questions who will pay for them as the town has not budgeted for such a move.

READ MORE: Old Qualicum College building to be demolished, replicated by property developer

“Everybody wants progress but nobody wants change,” said Weir. “As far as the 4,000 temperature lights in private subdivisions, every new subdivisions that we’ve done in the last while has 4,000 LED street lighting. And we have received zero complaints about that light.”

Westbroek said he would still like to find out from staff how much it would cost to retrofit the lights for the benefit of residents who want them replaced.

“There might not be some appetite for it but this is for people who would like to consider that option, then we have that information,” said Westbroek.

Coun. Scott Harrison said changing lights on busy streets will create safety issues, especially for seniors.

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Michael.Briones@pqbnews.com

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