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Pocatello Planning and Zoning Commission says proposed sign ordinance cap still needs work

The crowd at the public hearing. | Logan Ramsey,
POCATELLO — The Pocatello Planning and Zoning Commission heard comments from the public on a proposal that caps new billboards to its current number and decided it still needs work.
At the April 10 meeting, the commission voted unanimously to deny the proposal with the expectation that the Planning and Zoning department revise it and bring it back. Jim Anglesey, long range senior planner, said the department would do this as soon as possible.
“The sign code is a product of over two years of effort to seek community feedback,” said Jennifer Flynn, assistant planner in the Planning and Zoning department. “It’s a challenge to balance various interests.”
On November 15, the commission held another public hearing that had a large turnout from the business community speaking against the changes. They left it open so the department could bring them a revised proposal.
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This proposal would cap the construction of new billboards to its current number, 73. Owners of LED signs would have to dim the lights in the night rather than turn them off completely.
The arguments in favor
More people were in favor of the proposal this time than they were on November 15. In total, nine people spoke in favor while only one did at the last meeting.
The main points brought forward revolved around appreciating the natural beauty of Pocatello’s landscape, the ineffectiveness of billboards as advertising and unsafe conditions on the road caused by bright LED signs at night.
“Pocatello’s greatest asset is its natural beauty,” said Christopher Williams, a 23-year-resident of Pocatello. “Billboards and large signs take away from the day to day experiences of anyone living in or visiting our city in a world that is so dominated by digital advertising.”
“I don’t like being advertised to so incessantly,” said Kestrel Hulet.
Robert Ward said he has 20/20 vision but has trouble driving down Yellowstone Avenue at night. He went to the eye doctor to see if he could get help, and the doctor told him there was a lot of people who had come to him with that problem.
“There have been many times at night that I have felt in danger on the road because they were so bright. I could not see what was around me,” Hulet said.
The arguments against
The majority of people who spoke at the public hearing were business owners and advertisers. Fifteen people spoke against the revised proposal.
The main points against the proposal were about the potential to hurt advertisers and local businesses, the validity of public support behind the proposal and having to dim signs at night.
“During the COVID breakout, we taught our community how to shop on Amazon, and it’s damaged business in the Pocatello community,” said Matthew Hunter, CEO of the Pocatello/Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce.
Some people referenced a survey from February 2023 where a majority disliked pole signs, billboards and electronic message centers and other signage.
“The responses for less than 1% of the city’s population is not enough to take action when you think about the financial impact this will have on local businesses in our community,” said Kent Marboe with Lamar Advertising.
They also spoke to the difficulty of dimming the signs at night, saying that some signs aren’t equipped to do that. Bruce Murdock, a small business owner, said that while he agrees there needs to be a maximum brightness set, it’s not easy to dim illuminated signs that are old.
“I have to call the sign company, whoever I can get ahold of, to reprogram it because it’s old,” Murdock said.
What’s next?
The commissioners agreed that while the new sign code should be simplified, it can’t be so simple that it’s too broad.
There will be another public hearing once the department brings the new proposal to the commission and then the City Council will hold a public hearing before voting on whether or not to pass the proposal.
The post Pocatello Planning and Zoning Commission says proposed sign ordinance cap still needs work appeared first on East Idaho News.

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