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Nibley clarifies electronic sign ordinance; Petersen’s sign survives

March 31st, 2012 Posted in Opinion

Story and photo by Tmera Bradley

NIBLEY – What is the difference between direct lighting and indirect lighting? The question is not a riddle, but something upon which the City Council can’t seem to reach a conclusion.

“You know the old adage, ‘Two heads are better than one,’” said Planning Commissioner Wayne Anderson at the city council meeting last Thursday. “Ten heads are obviously a lot better than one, it just takes longer.”

Section A 10-12-15 of the Nibley City Ordinances states that an on-premises billboard must have indirect lighting. Animation, strobe and flashing lights are prohibited. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a sign at Petersen’s Country Store on 2759 S. Highway 89 that may not be in harmony with this ordinance.

Councilman Thayne Mickelson said the sign isn’t blinking, but the message changes every three seconds with about 10 or 12 messages rotating through.

“The purpose of this discussion is basically a workshop setting and not a point-finger setting,” said Mayor Gerald Knight.

The council debated on whether the sign at Peterson’s is classed as an EMD (Electronic Message Display).

“If it’s not defined then it’s not in the ordinance,” Councilman Larry Jacobsen said. “And if it’s not in the ordinance, it’s prohibited.”

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Aaron Bliesner said the problem is more about intensity of light then the light source. Discussion was raised that the planning commission stepped out of its boundaries in approving the sign. Bliesner said the commission usually goes with the loosest interpretation of ordinances. He said one of the hardest things for the commission members is to tell neighbors, friends, and people they see at church, “No, you can’t do that with your property.”

Bliesner said that it’s a bad idea to write city ordinances around the applicant being considered.

“I really don’t like the applicant breathing down my neck when I’m trying to do what’s right,” Bliesner said.

Jacobsen said he doesn’t believe the planning commission stepped outside of its authority, but that there were two issues he was worried about. “What have we done and should we do anything about it?” Jacobsen said. He said he suspects there would be legal ramifications to make Petersens take down the sign.

“I feel pretty strong about the fact we don’t want big flashy signs in our city,” Mickelson said.

City Manager Larry Ahnder said he believes “impression is more important than reality,” and if the city makes restrictive laws on signs, people will think Nibley is unfriendly to new businesses and development.

“That was a wonderful speech, are you done?” Knight said. “Because I disagree with 90 percent of what you said.”

Knight said to imply that “because we don’t approve an EMD we are unfriendly to businesses is baloney.” He said that the signs are “absolutely, horribly awful,” and “like Vegas,” and that he would hope to not have them in Nibley city.

Bliesner said he is concerned the council and commission were over-complicating things.

“This is actually a really big decision with a lot of ramifications for the future,” Councilman Shawn Platt said. “I don’t want to treat it lightly.”

Mickelson said that as technology changes, he’s confident in the fact if the light types in the ordinance are defined, it will be much easier to regulate or exclude future signs.

The council concluded to readjust the sign ordinance and clarify the specifications of which signs are prohibited. The current sign at Petersen’s Country Store will remain.

“I will not be chasing down ordinances as a committee,” Bliesner said. “Truthfully in my heart, I don’t feel like EMDs belong in Nibley.”


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