Liberty Hill City Council discussed the possibility of starting a Dark Skies Business Recognition program during its June 26 meeting.

Recommended by council member Amanda Young, the program would honor the businesses that have come into compliance or are working toward compliance with the city’s outdoor lighting ordinance. The ordinance was passed in August 2022 as a step in Liberty Hill's process of becoming a DarkSky International-recognized community.

Sorting out the details

Since the passage of the ordinance in 2022, businesses have five years, or until 2027, to change their lighting and come into compliance with the ordinance.

With three years left until that deadline, council member Diane Williams said city leaders need to start campaigning to make sure people are aware of this ordinance.

Williams said the recognition program would not only act as a positive reinforcement to the businesses that are in compliance with the ordinance, but it would also educate the noncompliant business community about it and help get them the assistance they need.

Katie Amsler, the city’s director of community engagement and communication, said to get the program off the ground, the city would need to come up with guidelines, an application, a scoring matrix and be able to inspect the businesses to make sure they are actually in compliance.

Further, she said the city would have to take time to go to the businesses and present the award.

Some context

Liberty Hill has been working toward submitting an application for a Dark Sky designation since July 2023. According to previous Community Impact reporting, officials are expecting to receive a designation by summer 2025.

A Dark Sky-designated community is a “municipality that has shown dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education and citizen support of dark skies,” according to DarkSky International.

Texas has over 20 sites designated as International Dark Sky Places, including many in Central Texas.

Liberty Hill would be the first northern Austin-area city with the designation.

The takeaway

City Manager Paul Brandenburg said city staff is “stretched so thin,” and may not be able to take on a program of this magnitude.

“It’s a great program, and I think it’s definitely worth doing when we have the resources to do it,” Amsler said.

She said the recognition program is worth looking into, and if council deems it as a top priority, city staff could work it into the schedule for next year, hopefully with additional staff and more time.