Board approves streetlight request on Rondale; some residents protest

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Robert Labranche enjoys gazing through his telescope on a clear night, but he’s concerned that “light pollution” will spoil his pastime.

Labranche was one of a few residents of Rondale Drive who appeared before the Grand Blanc Township Board of Trustees on Tuesday, May 11, to protest the proposed installation of streetlights along the roadway.

“We’re surrounded by woods, surrounded by wildlife,” said Labranche, who lives near the end of the less-than-one-mile-long road. “We’ve been there almost 12 years and we’ve never had a need for lighting. We prefer the semi-ruralness of the street.”

Last fall, following several shed break-ins, Rondale Drive resident Wendy Monty approached the township regarding the installation of streetlights, according to DPW Director Jeff Sears.

Monty reportedly circulated a petition among her neighbors, and obtained signatures indicating support from about 65 percent of the people who reside in the 34 houses along the road, Sears said.

“I’m not sure if she knocked on every door, but I know she knocked on quite a few,” he said. “Sixty-five percent signed in the affirmative.”

Labranche feels that if those residents want more light, they have the option of installing motion-detectors and flood lights on their own properties.

“Lights on the street in front of the houses is not going to shine hardly diddly in the back,” he said. “What would help better is motion detectors and flood lights. They come on, that scares the bejeezus out of anybody.”

Jane Frasier, who lives on Cook Road at the corner of Rondale Drive, agreed.

“I can’t believe they’re going to put lights there,” Frasier said. “There’s no necessity. It just makes it easier for people to take stuff, especially all the stuff in people’s yards. It’s ridiculous. That road is so small. Everybody has their porch lights on. I think it’s a dumb idea.”

Police Chief Ron Wiles said there is sufficient data to suggest that lighting is a deterrent to crime. He noted that his department is actively promoting the “9 P.M. Routine” which encourages residents to turn on their outdoor lights, lock their doors and secure their valuables every night to reduce crime.

“Lighting does play a role in crime prevention,” Wiles said. “If you reduce opportunity, you reduce crime. People who commit those crimes don’t like to be seen, so they don’t like lights.”

Township officials were sympathetic to the expressed concerns, but their hands were tied, they said.

“Sixty-five percent have signed requesting the creation of a lighting district,” said Clerk David Robertson. “As a board, as a member of the board, I’m guided by a 65-percent request. I understand your concerns about cost and aesthetics. But are we supposed to not take into consideration the interest of the 65 percent?

“Even if (some who signed the petition) were second-guessing, we’re still obligated under the rules and the law as it’s written. Sixty-five percent have requested lights go up. That puts the issue in front of us and we’re obligated to honor their request. Plain and simple.”

“We can’t please everybody,” said Supervisor Scott Bennett. “I understand the nature of the street, and that you like it peaceful. But I also (understand) 65 percent of the people on the street are saying they want the lights, so how can I say no?”

Consumers Energy will install the lights and has mapped out where each of the six will go. Township Superintendent Dennis Liimatta has proposed working with the energy company to determine whether a light is actually necessary near Labranche’s home.

The residents will pay a $600 one-time fee for installation, and about $641 annually in operational costs.