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Boise considers tighter restrictions on electronic signs

The city of Boise is considering tighter restrictions on electronic signs in a rewrite of the city’s sign code.

The City Council may consider the changes, which have prompted concerns from sign industry representatives, during a May 18 hearing.

Council members discussed the changes during a work session April 20, but there seemed to be no consensus about the new electronic sign regulations, said Scott Spjute, zoning administrator.

“I actually came away with the meeting last night not totally sure where we’re going from here,” he said. “We may just hold that section on electronic signs out and come back with a subsequent amendment.”

The city has been working for at least a year to simplify and update its sign code.

Spjute drafted a new 15-16 page code, which would slash the regulations by about two-thirds.

“My intent was to re-write the sign code so that it is easier for everyone – city staff, business people, sign industry professionals – to read and interpret,” he wrote in a memo last month. “The current code is 47 pages long with confusing tables, redundancies, and difficult-to-interpret regulations.”

Sign company owners have expressed worries about time restrictions imposed on electric messages, according to the memo.

Spjute had originally drafted an eight-second minimum for messages, but sign industry representatives argued that this would reduce the effectiveness of electronic signs and potentially distract drivers by making them wait too long to anticipate the next message.

In a subsequent draft, Spjute tried to incorporate those concerns by dropping the interval to four seconds but, in exchange, reducing the maximum size of the electronic portion of the sign from 75 percent of the total area to 50 percent, according to the memo.

Other proposed changes include restricting electronic signs to commercial and industrial zones; requiring a conditional use permit for electronic signs in office and residential zones; limiting illumination to 50 percent of maximum brightness during daylight hours and 10 percent of maximum brightness at night; and prohibiting all animation, flashing and similar motion.

The illumination and motion restrictions would apply to existing signs.

There seems to be little opposition to other features of the draft code. It includes new design standards so that signs reflect the architectural character of buildings, looser restrictions in the Capitol Boulevard corridor and reduced size allowances for master sign plans.

About Simon Shifrin


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