Friday, March 15, 2013

Hailey considers electronic signs

Ordinance would only allow use by schools and city properties

Express Staff Writer

Under a proposed new ordinance in the city of Hailey, this sign in front of the YMCA in Ketchum could be allowed in the south-valley city. Photo by Roland Lane

 To accommodate a request from Wood River Middle School, the Hailey Community Development Department has drafted an ordinance to regulate the use of electronic messaging display signs in the city.

Electronic message displays are signs that emit text messages and other animated messages. Currently, there is a prohibition in Hailey against all flashing and animated signs.

The proposed ordinance would allow only public schools and government entities, including Werthheimer Park, to use the display signs. Animated signs and electronic messaging display signs on businesses would remain prohibited.

Community Development Director Micah Austin wrote the draft ordinance at the direction of Mayor Fritz Haemmerle, after the middle school requested information on the city’s regulations.

An electronic messaging display sign that would be allowed under the proposed new ordinance exists at the Wood River YMCA in Ketchum, Austin said during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Monday, March 11. 

Austin said he purposefully drafted a “very restrictive” ordinance because of what he saw happen in his hometown of Ogden, Utah, where such signs proliferate.

“These can be the most aesthetically discouraging signs for a city to have,” Austin said. “This is not Las Vegas.”

Austin proposed allowing messages to be presented for no longer than five seconds, but that number is subject to change by the time the ordinance is brought back to the P&Z, perhaps as early as later this month.

The P&Z instructed Austin to canvass School District representatives to see how many messages of what length they would like to present on the signs during a day, and for what time duration.

“If the sign message moves at all, it’s distracting to drivers,” Commissioner Owen Scanlon said.

The proposed ordinance would allow for electronic messaging display signs no higher than 5 feet off the ground, using lighted letters no more than 12 inches high and only in the General Residential and Limited Residential zones. They would only be allowed to constitute 30 percent of an overall sign’s design.

Under the proposed ordinance, use of the signs would require a conditional-use permit, and would only be allowed after public comment was made to the city.

“They could change the nature of a residential neighborhood,” Austin said.

Tony Evans:

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