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Orem • The City Council approved two amendments to city code ordinances last night, banning all electronic billboards east of Interstate 15 and preventing any new billboards from being built in the city.
Council members voted 7-0 and 5-2 Tuesday night to amend the two sections of code, reversing its rejection of the proposals just two months ago.
"Driving up and down the [I-15] corridor, I've noticed that Orem has a strong presence as far as billboards on the freeway," Orem Mayor Richard Brunstsaid. "We have quite a few. I think that this would be beneficial for us."
Up to this point, city code allowed electronic signs on any billboard in the city. However, this became an issue when YESCO put up an LED (electronic) billboard near a residential neighborhood.
Orem residents Mike Whimpey and Mark Bowden, who both live near the freeway, expressed their dissatisfaction with having LED billboards near their homes, saying they are "detrimental to your life and sleep."
"If you nip this in the bud now, you won't have to hear about this over and over and over in every neighborhood as the billboards go up," Bowden said, addressing the City Council. "The pockets of few do not overrule the lifestyle of many."
Two voices in the audience, both representatives of local billboard companies, opposed the amendment.
"It seems a little bit strange that you would pass it and then turn it around 18 months later," said Nate Sechrest, a representative of Reagan Outdoor Advertising. "We just need some stability in regulation from the city's point of view. We're not trying to be antagonists, we're just trying to build a business that can serve our customers and thrive."
The City Council amended language it had approved less than two years ago after realizing there was a loophole in the law intended to ban electronic billboards east of I-15. In another section of the code, billboard companies are allowed to move existing billboards to any location within one mile of the original. Thus, companies could get around the restrictions in the law by moving their electronic billboards from the west side of the freeway to the east, and then rebuilding new ones to the west.
To avoid an explosion in new billboards, the city decided to consider restricting new billboards altogether.
"I think what we're trying to do is address a loophole that was created by the other action a year and a half ago," Councilwoman Margaret Black said. "And it's something that has to be addressed, so I'm very much in favor of going ahead with this."
YESCO's Mike Helm said he had been waiting since November for the city to contact him and ask for his input on the issue, but never heard from them.
However, City Planning Division Manager Jason Bench said the city met with both billboard companies, but decided to consider their proposals separately from the proposal of banning new billboards altogether.
This council had previously voted on the amendments on Nov. 11, 2014, narrowly defeating them when the 3-2 vote in favor of the proposals fell short of a majority. However, one of the members requested to revisit the issue when the whole seven-member council would be present to vote, leading to Tuesday's action.