Tuesday, June 18, 2024

A sign of things to come in Coeur d'Alene

Staff Writer | May 30, 2024 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — A Coeur d’Alene man is calling on the city to consider phasing out off-premises billboards.

“We have such density in this town already with on-premises signs, there’s no place for outdoor advertising within the city. In the county, sure. Post Falls wants to have billboards all along I-90, fine,” Jeff Conaway told the General Services/Public Works Committee on Tuesday.

“You want to see them all go away?” asked Councilman Woody McEvers. 

“Yes, I do,” said Conaway, who served on the city’s sign board for 20 years, “and electronic signs as well. I think they’re distracting and dangerous.”

The committee met in the Library Community Room to hear about proposed changes to the city’s sign code that would allow off-premises billboards to be relocated with a permit, as well as setting standards on size, height and lighting.

The proposed new code would also set requirements for electronic signs such as auto dimming, that messages must be held for at least eight seconds instead of two, and video messages would be prohibited.

The city has eight off-premises billboards, meaning it's promoting a business elsewhere, within its limits. Four of them are on Northwest Boulevard, two along Interstate 90 and Seltice Way, and two on U.S. 95.

Such billboards are no longer allowed and those that remain are grandfathered in.

Some have requested they be allowed to move their billboards.

“At some point, we’re going to need to consider mobile billboards,” Councilman Dan Gookin said.

According to a staff report, the city adopted a new sign code in March 2022 to simplify sections and to ensure it meets the constitutionality required by case law. The changes shrank the code from 31 pages to 19.

In December, the council requested staff provide an opportunity to revisit the sign code and provide a way to allow the relocation of existing billboards within the city limits. 

Staff reviewed codes from several cities including Post Falls, Hayden and Meridian. They found most cities did not allow for new billboards, and a few provided for their movement with certain parameters. 

Under Coeur d'Alene's proposed code, a billboard could be allowed to be moved as long as it meets planning and zoning setbacks, be in the appropriate zone, meet height restrictions, meet separation requirements between signs and underground electrical requirements. A public hearing could also be required before the City Council.

Neil Schreibeis, with Lamar Advertising, would like to relocate one of their signs on Northwest Boulevard.

He said he didn’t have any issues with most of the code amendments, but said it did seem to be “really very complicated.”

“Simpler is better,” he said.

Asked if he would move a billboard to an area with less traffic that could be closer to neighborhoods, Schreibeis said no.

“It’s less income for us," he said. “We couldn’t sell it for as much.”

Conaway said with Coeur d’Alene’s increasing commercial density, such billboards “are not desirable any longer.”

He suggested the city change its codes so when an off-premises billboard’s lease expires, it could not be renewed.

He said probably the only people in favor of billboards are those who own the signs, the land on which they stand and outdoor advertising companies.

Coeur d’Alene resident James Fillmore said, “Not allowing an increase in the number of billboards will be appreciated by the citizens of and visitors to the city of Coeur d’Alene."

Concerns cited Tuesday included that the city be allowed to read the lease between the sign owner and landowner as invasive, that a public hearing be held before the City Council as unnecessary and underground electric required as asking too much. 

The proposed amendments to the sign codes will go to the other half of the General Services/Public Works Committee on June 10.