The N&O noted earlier this week a grassroots group calling itself "Stop the Light Sculpture," formed to oppose the Jaume Plensa art exhibit we've talked about here for some weeks now.
As Barry noted at his place yesterday, the group's web site states it is an "operation funded by the citizens of Durham, NC" -- though it appears the two founding members, Mark Gibson and Chris Waldrup, are residents of Raleigh and Apex, respectively. Update: As Ross points out in the comments, their page may be more appropriately interpreted as stating that the operation of the artwork (not the opposition group) are being funded by Durham citizens.
Both are ham radio and radio astronomy enthusiasts -- check out Mark's web site to see what I mean -- and Gibson noted in an interview Thursday that the presence of a 7,000 watt light emitting energy into the sky played a factor in their interest and concern.
Gibson repeated his concern that the "fast-tracking" of the item -- it was voted on at a City Council work session agenda, not a Monday night Council meeting -- were of concern to them. "I think that if it was a normal process, we might not have ever thought about it," Gibson said.
To our understanding of the matter here at BCR -- though we welcome a correction if we're wrong about this -- a work session vote requires a suspension of normal rules but remains a valid and legal vote, as long as a public hearing is not required on an agenda item.
As I suggested to Gibson, this art exhibit has been in the works for some time, with the building permit listing the City of Durham as the property owner having been filed weeks before the public hearing, making the Thursday Council vote really nothing more than a formality.
A more intriguing argument, though, has come to Gibson and Waldrup from an unnamed (to BCR) Durham resident, who noted that section 7.4.3 of Durham's Unified Development Ordinance has some intriguing language on light displays:
Lighting fixtures used to accent architectural features, landscaping or art shall be located, aimed or shielded to minimize light spill into the night sky.
So, if you're planning to illuminate a statue, be careful that your light beams don't create too much light pollution. But if you're going to make the light art, hey, point that sucker towards the moon and let 'er rip!
According to Gibson, Durham officials he spoke with about this part of the UDO noted just that. Section 7.4.3(H) is intended to apply to illumination of buildings and art work, but if the art work itself is comprised of the light, then it doesn't apply.
Which sounds right to a literal meaning, though it gives the few critics of the project something to show what would look on the face of things to be a double standard.
Will the opposition matter? I wouldn't bet on it. This thing is moving forward at light speed, and we here at BCR think it's still a terrific addition to downtown and something for Durham to be proud of.
Gibson noted that their group has contacted the International Dark Sky Association, which is "following this" -- but we wouldn't expect anything to change between now and the December 1 power-on of Jim Goodmon's gift to the Bull City.