Wednesday, December 18, 2013

City prohibits electronic display signs

Hailey City Council vote thwarts mayor’s plan

Express Staff Writer

    After a year of research, public meetings and deliberations, the Hailey City Council voted unanimously Monday to prohibit the use of electronic messaging display signs (EMDs) in the city.
    Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle had lobbied to install two EMD signs in Hailey, similar to the electronic sign located at the Wood River Community YMCA in Ketchum. His goal was to place one at the south end of town, and one at the north end, to use for posting news about city and school events.
    Councilman Pat Cooley stated the most vehement opposition to the signs, saying it could open the floodgates on their use, and lead to a downtown strip that looks like Twin Falls.
    “It would be a slippery slope,” Cooley said.
    The issue first came to the fore last January when a Blaine County School District official inquired about the city’s regulations regarding EMDs. City law was unclear about the use of the signs, although it allows for lighted electronic signs at businesses that do not display changeable messages in sentences. City law does allow for electronic messaging signs to be used at gas stations to advertise gas prices.
    The City Council agreed with a Planning and Zoning recommendation that EMDS not be allowed in residential neighborhoods, where the schools are, but Haemmerle led an effort by the Hailey City Council to allow them on city property for public use.  

It would be a slippery slope.”
Pat Cooley

    Haemmerle had Community Development Director Micah Austin draw up an ordinance that would allow them on city property only, and within a proposed Information Overlay District that would limit their use to two specific sites.
    Haemmerle posted a temporary EMD sign at the Hailey Skatepark to gauge public reaction. The comments were almost evenly split, with one more vote in favor than against the EMDs.
    “I just don’t see the public support for this,” said Hailey resident Peter Lobb.
    The City Council voted to amend the city’s sign ordinance to prohibit EMDs outright and return to the allowed use of a vinyl sign at Wertheimer Park to advertise city and school events.
    Haemmerle was visibly upset that the City Council would not take the necessary steps to allow EMDs in the city. He said it was “mind-boggling” that the city would only allow signs with letters that have to be changed by hand.
    In other Hailey news:
- A final plat was approved for the River Street Station condominiums at the corner of River Street and Myrtle Street, creating five commercial units in one building.
- The City Council entered into a five-year lease with the Sawtooth Rangers for use of the rodeo arena over the Fourth of July holiday.
- Haemmerle and Councilman Don Keirn were re-appointed to the Freidman Memorial Airport Authority for two-year terms.
- Joan Davies and Frank Rowland were reappointed to three-year terms on the Hailey Historic Preservation Commission and Arts Commission boards.
- Janet Fugate was reappointed to a three-year term on the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission.

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