One can almost visualize last week's Blaine County Planning and Zoning
Commission meeting as an episode out of Lewis Carroll's fantasyland children's classic,
"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"a nonsensical world of silliness gone
Before the night was over, the surrealists had seized control.
Commission members granted eight of 10 signage requests made by the new
St. Luke's hospitalan utterly preposterous decision when fully considering where
signs will go.
Its not as if St. Lukes is tucked away down an alley on a side
street behind a welding shop and needs signs for expectant women frantically looking for
an emergency room.
But that's how the P&Z commission seemed to interpret pleas of St.
Lukes officialsthat, jeepers, without a battery of lit and unlit signs, people
just might drive by St. Lukes without seeing it.
As one of the largest (if not THE largest) buildings in Blaine County, the
new St. Lukes is impossible to not see as one rounds the bend of Highway 75 south of
Elkhorn at McHanville.
The hospital itself looms tall and imposing on its unobscured plot.
Garish may be overstating the character of the signs that St. Luke's
wangled out of commission members who, incidentally, seemed to have lost the power to
understand why a structure of such size and such individuality can't possibly need such an
array of signs.
But gaudy might fit the description of the approved signs, one of them a
60-square-foot cross 40 feet up the east side of the hospital, another a 90-square-foot
"monument" at the northern entrance. Granted, St. Lukes backed off its
insistence that the cross be lighted and backed off back-lighting other signs in favor of
indirect lighting. Still, the hospital name will be lighted with a blue "halo."
In bowing unceremoniously to St. Lukes executives who seemed
obsessed with pretentiousness for their edifice, the P&Z commission has not only
endorsed obtrusive signage, but advanced the breakdown of standards in the Wood River
How long before a line of businessmen and developers forms at the P&Z
commissions door demanding huge signs to promote their businessesmaybe a large
60-square-foot halo-lighted plunger for a plumbing shop, or a similar "monument"
for a high-brow gated community?
How does Blaine County officialdom explain the reasoning that a building
so inescapably large, so prominently located and so individual in its services needs an
array of signs to identify itself and provide directions?
In a single evening, the commission demonstrated it's a soft touch when
asked by special interests to breach its own established standards, as well as being
willing to abuse aesthetic sensibilities of the entire valley.
To be blunt: St. Lukes officials consider the Wood River Valley a
branch office to bigger corporate goals. Time and again, they've elected to place home
office objectives ahead of the valley's values. But worse, members of the P&Z board
showed just whose interests they consider to be paramount.