Press Release: Blanco County Friends of the Night Sky – For Immediate Release: June 29, 2020
On June 29, Blanco’s Swiss Lodge motel became the first recipient of night sky friendly outdoor lighting fixtures paid for with Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds. The 29 fixtures purchased for the motel were Ellicott Portfolio galvanized, gooseneck wall lanterns, approved as “Good Neighbor Lighting” by the International Dark Sky Association.
Thanks to a lot of hard work done in the last legislative session, Blanco, Johnson City, and Dripping Springs received legal authorization to spend a portion of their Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds for night sky preservation. This is a special tax paid by visitors who stay in the city’s motels and B&Bs. It must be used to enhance tourism and, ultimately, put “heads in beds” in the city. As night sky tourism is growing segment of the tourism industry, the Texas Legislature authorized three rural cities (Blanco, Johnson City, and Dripping Springs) to use a portion of their HOT funds for night sky preservation.
In Blanco, the HOT funds are administered by the Chamber of Commerce. In order to promote night sky tourism as a viable component of the city’s offerings, the Blanco Chamber of Commerce is actively supporting night sky preservation efforts in the city and the surrounding area.
“We are really happy to be able to help the Swiss Lodge become more night sky friendly,” said Libbey Aly, Executive Director of the Blanco Chamber of Commerce. “Replacing their old wall lights that shined out in all directions will make a big difference and the gooseneck design fits right in with the rural atmosphere we are trying to preserve here in Blanco.”
Working with the Chamber of Commerce to use HOT funds to retrofit aberrant outdoor lighting at the City’s motels and B&Bs, is the Blanco County Friends of the Night Sky (BCFNS), a local 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
“We are really excited about these fixtures at the Swiss Lodge,” said Wayne Gosnell, BCFNS President. “Not only will this reduce light pollution and glare, it will help to Swiss Lodge meet the requirements of Blanco’s 2018 Outdoor Lighting Ordinance, whose grandfathering provisions expire this coming October.”
The Blanco Chamber of Commerce and the BCFNS hope to soon be able to facilitate retrofitting outdoor lighting at the Blanco County Inn and Blanco’s Best Western Motel as well as local B&Bs. The fixtures are provided at no cost to the businesses but the businesses are responsible for installation and maintenance. B&Bs within the city limits wishing to participate should contact the Blanco Chamber of Commerce.
The legislation authorizing the use of HOT funds for night sky preservation was spearheaded by State Representative Erin Zweiner (D, District 45) and co-sponsored by Representative Kyle Biedermann (R, District 73). Senate sponsors were State Senator Dawn Buckingham (R, District 24) and Senator Judith Zaffirini (D, District 21). The Hill Country Alliance, the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, the Blanco County Friends of the Night Sky, and the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association were instrumental in its passage.
Learn more about the Blanco County Friends of the Night Sky here.