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News flash: e-billboards may be welcome in Salt Lake City

Published December 12, 2011 7:33 pm

Advertising • Becker compromise would pave way for restricted use.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Billboards could be allowed to flash in Salt Lake City after all — just not as often as the industry prefers and not near residential neighborhoods.

Mayor Ralph Becker is proposing a compromise on electronic billboards. They would be OK in manufacturing zones and along large commercial corridors. But if a company wanted one, it would have to take down one of its existing traditional billboards so there would be no net increase.

If the City Council greenlights the e-billboard proposal — a briefing is set Tuesday and a public hearing is expected Jan. 3 — other restrictions would apply. E-billboards could not be within 600 feet of a residential area or a gateway street. They could not be on roofs, in historic districts, lit up between midnight and 6 a.m. or include any motion. And the large ones, bigger than 250 square feet, could change images only every eight seconds or longer.

The proposed policy change, based on terms in a 1968 agreement between then-Gov. Calvin Rampton and the Lyndon Johnson administration, would not affect the city's 90 electric signs (such as those outside of businesses).

Becker's team argues the revised ordinance would provide a reasonable process "for the replacement or relocation of existing nonconforming billboards to areas of the city where they will have less negative impact on the goals and policies of the city, which promote the enhancement of the city's gateways, views, vistas and related urban-design elements of the city's master plans."

Last April, the council, at Becker's urging, banned for nine months any new e-billboards and the conversion of existing ones to digital in order to conduct a policy review. That period expires Jan. 13.

The city's six existing e-billboards — it has 139 traditional ones — were exempted. Even so, billboard industry executives voiced displeasure with Becker's proposal during a fall hearing. Officials from Young Electric Sign Co. and Reagan Outdoor Advertising argued the eight-second hold times "will significantly reduce our ability to communicate meaningful messages to our customers."

They also called turning off the signs at night "unacceptable," insisted the signs are intended for full animation and maintained e-billboards are not a safety issue.

Under the proposal, new digital signs could be fully integrated into a building's architecture. And smaller signs, less than 100 square feet, could change images every three seconds.

The new terms would increase the acreage where billboards would be allowed — including west of Interstate 215 and on the Interstate 15 stretch between 1000 South and 2100 South.

But the ordinance also would prohibit 3-D animals or people and require all e-billboards to include automatic dimmers.

djensen@sltrib.com —

Golf fees, mother-in-law apartments and a 'Sugar Hole' loan

The final scheduled Salt Lake City Council meeting of 2011 is loaded with long-lingering items that could see resolution Tuesday.

A proposed green-fee increase, to take effect Jan. 1, would spike golf rates by $1 per nine-hole round. The extra cash would help upgrade city courses. Fees at some courses also could be bumped by a couple of dollars more per 18-hole round.

After months of debate, the council could approve so-called mother-in-law apartments — dubbed "accessory dwelling units" — to "encourage sustainable-living practices throughout the city." A continued public hearing is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Room 315 at City Hall, 451 S. State St. Mayor Ralph Becker's proposal has raised the ire of some neighborhood groups, particularly in the Avenues.

The council, sitting as the Redevelopment Agency Board, will consider a $5 million construction loan to Sugar House developer Craig Mecham for his proposed housing and retail project that would fill the "Sugar Hole" at 2122 S. Highland Drive. The long-stalled development calls for 204 apartments, underground parking and 44,000 square feet of shops and restaurants. Construction is slated to start in the spring based on final approval of bank financing, which has dogged Mecham for years.

Also in Sugar House, the vacant Deseret Industries building at 2234 S. Highland Drive is being offered to the RDA by the LDS Church for $1.1 million. If the RDA Board signs off, the property eventually would be redesigned to accommodate a future phase of the planned Sugar House streetcar. The city also wants the property to help revamp the Sugar House business core and for roadway realignments of Wilmington Avenue and Sugarmont Drive.

Derek P. Jensen






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