“Dark Skies” art show draws art enthusiasts, Cave Creek officials

Event raised money for the Cave Creek Dark Sky Initiative


CAVE CREEK — Supporters of the Cave Creek Dark Sky Initiative (CCDSI) dropped by the Desert Foothills Library February 24 to browse through 75 pieces of original artwork by 24 local artists. A portion of sales went to the CCDSI.

Members of the CCDSI would like to see Cave Creek become the 24th International Dark Sky Association (IDA) community in the world. Several Arizona towns and cities, including Flagstaff, Camp Verde, Fountain Hills and Sedona, have become certified IDA communities. The IDA’s mission is to “preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.”

Among the 250 people in attendance were Cave Creek Vice Mayor David Smith, councilman Thomas McGuire, councilwoman Kathryn Royer, councilman Robert Morris and councilman Paul Diefenderfer. All of them spoke at the informal art show, which featured art inspired by the night sky. Also, in attendance were Vicky Dirksen, vice-chair of the Fountain Hills Dark Sky group and Christa Sadler, president of the IDA Phoenix Chapter. Both spoke about why they believe it is important to protect the night sky.

In August 2019, the Cave Creek Town Council voted 4 to 3 against a resolution that would have started the application process for the town to become an IDA community. While the council vote in 2019 was a disappointment to the CCDSI, the group’s co-founder, Bruce Arlen, said CCDSI is working “tirelessly” toward its goals and plans to bring another resolution before the town council so they can start the application process.

The fact that the five town officials at the art show voiced their support for CCDSI’s goals could be interpreted by some as a positive sign for CCDSI. But town staff has expressed concern over possible costs to taxpayers if lighting codes need to be updated to IDA standards or if lighting-code enforcement has to be increased.

The Vice Mayor and Town Council members in attendance explained why they support CCDSI’s objectives and how they envision the Dark Sky initiative taking root at town hall.

“Dark skies is something this town needs, and it needs to be reflected in the ordinances and standards that we have for lighting,” said Vice Mayor Smith. “It’s something the town and the business operators in the town can accommodate just by doing a little bit of business and improve the [zoning] ordinances and make them more reflective of what the IDA standards are.”

Councilwoman Royer said that if the town were to become an IDA community, it would not be able to do it without the support of the town staff.

“I’m taking it upon myself to work with the Town Manager, the Planning Department and town staff because they have to push it through. We have to make sure we work cooperatively within the channels of town government…,” Royer said.

A few minutes later, Diefenderfer told attendees that he recently talked to Camp Verde Town Manager Russ Martin about the IDA. Camp Verde is an IDA-certified town.

“He [Martin] said he would do it again in a heartbeat,” Diefenderfer said, referring to Camp Verde’s efforts to become IDA certified. Martin also told Diefenderfer that certification helps with enforcement “because then there is a good reason” why people should modify their lighting,” he said.

“If you have to shield your eyes when you go outside at night and look at your house, [your lighting] is wrong, but it’s not hard to fix,” he said.

Diefenderfer went on to say that if some residents say they can’t afford to modify their lighting, the town will make sure it finds volunteers to assist them in the process.

“It’s going to happen – one way or another,” he said.

Despite Diefenderfer’s confidence, it remains to be seen whether or not the IDA-certification effort will move forward.

In a January 6 statement to The Foothills Focus, the Town Planning Department said, “Although the Town of Cave Creek values its dark skies and the quality of life it provides for residents, visitors and wildlife, which is reflected in the current town ordinances, town council must consider the additional resources and expenditures required to become a certified IDA community.”

The statement went on to say the Planning Department was working on modernizing the lighting code, such as revising how light is measured, changing it from watts to lumens.

The town’s outdoor lighting will be a main focus of the March 12 special meeting of the Cave Creek Planning Commission. The commission will consider recommending that the Town Council approve revisions to the zoning ordinance regarding some outdoor lighting provisions. Planning Director Luke Kautzman said in a memo attached to the meeting agenda that the town solicited input from the IDA on the proposed revisions. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at town hall.

The IDA is a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1988. It is dedicated to protecting the night skies for present and future generations.

The following are
goals of the IDA:

•          Advocate for the protection of the night sky

•          Educate the public and policymakers about night sky conservation

•          Promote environmentally responsible outdoor lighting

•          Empower the public with the tools and resources to help bring back the night

For more information, go to www.darksky.org.