South Charlotte

Some south Charlotte residents are fired up over new LED streetlights

Residents Kelly Ross and Eric Bevan stand under one of the new LED lights on Carmel Forest Drive.
Residents Kelly Ross and Eric Bevan stand under one of the new LED lights on Carmel Forest Drive. earriero@charlotteobserver.com

Residents in a south Charlotte neighborhood are frustrated that new LED streetlights the city added recently are ruining the ambiance. One city official, however, said the lights are better because they use less energy and are more environmentally friendly.

The Charlotte Department of Transportation installed new lights on Carmel Forest Drive, just off Carmel Road, within the last month, said CDOT spokeswoman Linda Durrett.

Durrett said that over the last year, the department has been moving away from high-pressure sodium lights, which cast a yellowish glow, and mercury-vapor (white) lights.

As those lights have gone out, the city has replace them with LED lighting, she said.

Durrett said there are numerous benefits to LED lights, including that they use less power, burn out less frequently (thus requiring less maintenance) and are considered more environmentally friendly.

She said the public generally has backed the switch to LED lighting.

Luellen Stine, who wanted to add the lights in the community, said some people wanted the street lights because they were concerned about hitting deer or even nighttime walkers while driving.

“"It was pitch black out here,” Stine said. “It was like we were out in the country but we don’t live in the country.”

She also said the LED lights are brighter than other types of lights, but the benefits outweigh any issues the lights may bring.

“They are a bit brighter but to me it doesn’t matter,” she said. “You can see better and I know they’re more cost efficient.”

However, Kelly Ross and some of her neighbors on Carmel Forest Drive are not fans of the new lights.

“The LED lights that the city is putting into our community are worse than no lights at all,” Ross said. “They are blinding runway lights that have ended up lighting up our yards, homes and even our living and bedrooms.”

She said the brightness make the community feel like a Walmart parking lot at night, adding that the lights should not be used for residential purposes.

“I don’t like it because it’s a harsh, blinding light,” Ross said. “There was no consideration of the topography and the lifestyles of the community.”

Resident Mike Castano said the new lights scare away the deer in the area and reduce the area’s rural feeling.

“I like to see the moon and the stars at night,” said Castano, who has lived on the street for decades. “Now I can’t.”

Durrett said she has received at least one inquiry from Carmel Forest Drive and that the department is working with Duke Energy “to resolve lighting issues on the front of her property.”

But Durrett said that throughout the city, the response to LED lighting generally has been good.

“People are happy they’re more environmentally friendly, more efficient and use less power,” Durrett said. “The advantages seem like they’re very important to them.”

Ross said she’d much prefer lights like the older ones – high-pressure sodium lights in her neighborhood – which she said are less bright.

“We’re not against lights, we just want the right kind of lights to be put in,” Castano said. “But life goes on. I suppose there are a lot worse things that can happen.

“But it’s still a great inconvenience for us.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero

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