Janesville74.2°

Change limits set on digital signs

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
February 26, 2008
— Council members who voted for a 10-second interval between ads on digital billboards called the new ordinance a compromise between the 30 seconds recommended by staff and the six seconds requested by sign representatives.

The vote was 4-2, with Craig DeGarmo, Russ Steeber, George Brunner and Paul Williams approving the ordinance with a 10-second delay and Amy Loasching and Tim Wellnitz voting no. Bill Truman was absent.


In July, Lamar Outdoor Advertising erected six digital billboards on existing billboards. The council imposed a moratorium on more digital billboards until staff could propose updates to the ordinance.


Staff said a 30-second interval between ads balanced a variety of interests, aesthetics and public safety.


Sign representatives told the council that aesthetics are personal, adding that many residents like the billboards because they have a cleaner look.


They said no study has shown that the billboards cause accidents, and that has been reinforced by the experience in Janesville since July, they said.


The majority of council members who voted for the compromise said they didn’t perceive the signs to be a problem, and Steeber said they were attractive.


But Loasching didn’t think the compromise was needed because she had received no negative comments from residents.


“I like these signs,” Loasching said.


She did her own survey of 100 residents, she said, choosing second-shift General Motors employees who would likely see the signs at the Monterey and Memorial bridges. She asked if they found the signs distracting at night.


“Fifty-five percent of them didn’t even know the sign was there,” she said. “I can’t say the six seconds is really going to matter.”


She thanked Lamar for allowing such community postings as Amber Alerts on the billboards.


The council also refused to grandfather the existing six billboards, meaning they must change to 10-second intervals as well.


And the ordinance requires digital signs to be 1,200 feet from residential and agricultural property.


The city has asked Lamar to remove the two billboards at the Monterey and Memorial bridges. The billboards are non-conforming, which means any major structural changes require that they be removed.


Staff said Lamar altered the structures to switch to digital, while Brad Yarmark of Lamar said the changes didn’t rise to the level of “substantial change.”


“We’re working with our legal department on that,” Yarmark said.



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