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Nearly 400-Year-Old Long Island Town Passes Controversial 'Dark Skies' Law

SHELTER ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- After months of supercharged debate Shelter Island's town board has passed a so-called "dark skies" law.

As CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported Wednesday, the light fight could leave outdoor summer plans in the dark.

Bucolic Shelter Island is Long Island's smallest town, and since 1620 has been fiercely independent, said many of its 2,000 year-round residents.

"I would like not to have government telling me every move I should make," one resident said.

"I wouldn't like to be told what I can do in my own home about putting up lights," another said.

"If they haven't been getting complaints, you don't need any more laws," another added.

Surprisingly controversial, the "dark skies" law was passed following heated debate. Outdoor lighting is now restricted from sunset to sunrise. Many locals told McLogan light pollution in the 12-square mile town -- with its small commercial area -- seems nonexistent.

"We came up with a very reasonable and calm law that will preserve our dark skies while we still have them," Supervisor James Dougherty said.

The town supervisor said homeowners don't want big brother, but they are also environmental leaders and see benefits to animals and plants.

Porch and landscape lights must be muted. They must be aimed down, not up. No more floodlights. No lights trespassing across property lines

The town's goal: to ease sky glow, make stars more visible and cut down on wasted energy.

"Darkness is not the enemy. It isn't necessary for security. You don't need to light your property so you're safe," Shelter Island Councilwoman Christine Lewis said.

The town council wanted to deal with light pollution before people purchase and install expensive outdoor fixtures, but it remains a town divided over dark skies, McLogan reported.

"It's too much government intrusion. I'd rather see the community work together instead of against each other," Councilman Ed Brown said.

Citizens are asking about lighting up backyards with barbeques and torches. According to new town code such "temporary" lighting is excluded from the dark skies law.

Shelter Island leaders said the United States alone wastes $2 billion a year in energy costs, due to "over-lighting."

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