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Light installation could delay Bell Tower Green opening, but formal event still set for Sept. 10

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Bell Tower Green Park President Dyke Messinger says he’s unsure whether the delayed approval for new lights in the downtown park will impact its opening to the public, which is currently slated for early September.

Park representatives on July 8 asked the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness to remove and replace 19 pedestrian-level light fixtures inside the perimeter of the park. After a lengthy discussion, commission members tabled the issue because of public concern about the lights being obtrusive to neighbors.

While the lights selected meet all of the city’s standards, commission members at the July 8 meeting struggled to make a determination based on the word “unobtrusive” and its ambiguity in Section 4.3 of the city’s historic district design guidelines. Therefore, the commission agreed to reconvene before its regular meeting on Aug. 12 to revisit the issue with more testimony from light experts.

Currently, Duke Energy Acorn LED fixtures exist throughout the park. The request was to replace those fixtures with Duke Energy Open Deluxe Acorn LED fixtures. The new fixtures would not have a glass covering and reduce the color temperature from 4000 Kelvin to 3000 Kelvin, providing a warmer, more yellow-toned light. The International Dark-Sky Association recommends using a light color temperature of no more than 3000 Kelvin to reduce “skyglow.”

Additionally, the “cutoff” style of the proposed light fixtures is intended to help reduce the level of light pollution. The lights will be placed on 12-foot aluminum poles and resemble the perimeter lights that currently border the park along South Church, West Innes and South Jackson streets, minus the glass enclosures.

The HPC revisited the issue Monday in a called meeting. HPC Chair Andrew Walker told the Post the commission heard enough evidence from Andrea Hartranft of Hartranft Lighting Design, and public comments from nearby residents in support of the request to conclude the glare would not be obtrusive to nearby residents because it will be pointing down rather than out. Meetings at the HPC operate differently than regular public hearings and presentations before City Council because the commission, which holds quasi-judicial hearings, must base decisions on sworn testimony and findings-of-fact. It’s another reason why more information provided in a formal meeting was necessary before approval.

Messinger said the new lights were ordered from Duke Energy Tuesday, but a current nationwide shortage of some construction supplies threatens to delay the opening. While a grand reopening is still slated for Sept. 10, just one day before the annual Pops at the Post, city officials are expected to formally take ownership before then. The date is dependent on the regularly scheduled City Council meetings. Upcoming meetings are scheduled for Aug. 3, Aug. 17 and Sept. 7.

Messinger told the Post Tuesday there’s “very much a chance” the park will be turned over to the city before the lights are installed. If so, it would then be at the city’s discretion when the park opens to the public. Messinger noted the city could wait until installation is finalized for the sake of safety.

That gives developers a little more than six weeks to get it all done, Messinger said.

“That’s going to be tough to get that done,” he added.

If needed, Messinger said, light towers could be provided during Pops at the Post if the park is not yet open and the lights are not fully installed.

“But it would be nice for everything to be in place,” he added.

Once complete, the park will contain trees, gardens, walkways, a series of metal trellises covered in greenery, a playground, a water wall, splash pad, benches and the Bell Tower that was once part of First Presbyterian Church.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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