Mesquite’s City Council on Tuesday, bypassed the recommendation of the city staff, and voted 4-0 to allow billboards to include electronic message boards.
John Willis, senior planner for the city, recommended the council deny the request to pass Bill No. 460, which would allow electronic message centers be added under the city’s non-conforming sign use regulations (Sec.9-10-12 Non-Conforming Signs).
Councilman Kraig Hafen abstained from the discussion and the vote, announcing that he owns a billboard and therefore would be directly affected by the code change.
Ray Draper of the Young Electric Sign Co. (YESCO) and Andre Carrier, president and Chief Operating Officer for the Eureka Casino Resort, asked for the city’s restrictions to be loosened on upgrading billboards, which under city regulations are listed as “non-conforming signs.” And the code prohibits any modification of the “architecture, lighting or material” of non-conforming signs.
Draper said with today’s technology, the code needs to be modernized. “Don’t penalize us for new technology,” he said.
City staff had recommended the request be denied because of the potential distraction to passing motorists the changing messages could provide.
But Draper said he has spoken with the city attorney in St. George, Utah, where an electronic message center sign is located near the old airport, and the attorney said, “There’s no accidents there. None!”
He noted it costs the Eureka about $1,200 to change the message on each of its YESCO billboards now. But with an electronic message center, the information can be changed with a few keyboard strokes where the computer terminal is located for the sign.
Councilman Karl Gustaveson asked about the speed of the change for rotating messages and the brightness of the lighting.
Draper said the Nevada Department of Transportation and federal regulators mandate the messages cannot be changed more rapidly than every eight seconds. Electronic message boards, such as the one at the CasaBlanca Casino on West Mesquite Boulevard can change more rapidly than that because they are on private property.
He noted the brightness of the signs are “100 percent” during daylight hours but can be dimmed at night, not to distract drivers or offend residential neighbors.
Bill No. 460 included a prohibition of placing the electronic signs within 800 feet of a private residence. Draper said that’s prohibitive.
Mayor Mark Wier asked Willis why 800 feet was selected. Willis said that distance was selected because it would exclude 9 of the 11 billboards in town. The mayor asked what would happen if the exclusionary distance were reduced to 200 feet. Willis said staff had not done that measurement.
Councilman George Rapson said in looking at the reasons staff had recommended denying the code change, “I don’t see the impact.”
Following the 4-0 vote, Hafen returned to the council table.
The change in the city code allowing the electronic signs was the second action of the evening that loosened signage regulations. The council also adopted Ordinance No 459, which removed the regulatory barriers to installing light emitting diode (LED) community event signs.
Willis noted the city has been discussing the value of having “community event signs” that could inform passing motorists about events in the community, or other public service announcements.
Richard Secrist, the city’s senior planner was not present, but in his recommendation report he noted, “The digital age has brought with it tremendous change, not the least of which is the way we communicate with one another, and the tools with which we do it. Whether we communicate with smart phones or tablets, our computers, interactive televisions, or our GPS navigation systems, volumes of information are readily available at our fingertip. This is also true for the medium of advertising.”
He added that is the size and location of the public announcement board is carefully planned, “there’s no reason to believe (the sign) will be any more intrusive or unsafe than conventional signage.”
Sandra Ramaker, president elect of the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce, told the council, “The chamber is all for this.”
Rapson asked Willis if adopting the ordinance would mean commercial signs also could be erected.
Willis said the ordinance was drafted with the intention of only public service announcements being displayed. Following Gustaveson’s motion, the council unanimously passed the bill into law.
Wier pulled two items from the agenda at the beginning of the 5 p.m. meeting, held in Mesquite City Hall, 10 E. Mesquite Blvd.
The chamber had requested a $1,600 sponsorship from the city for the Oct. 12-13 Gold Butte Festival, half marathon and 5k race. But the money had been provided by the city police department.
City Manager Andy Barton also had suggested the Sept. 25, 2012, regularly scheduled council meeting be held at the Grille Room, 100 Palmer Lane. After the meeting Barton explained the timing wouldn’t work to hold the meeting in a smaller facility, as some important items will be on that agenda. He also noted that he heard concerns about a meeting held elsewhere than the council chambers could not be televised. He told the MLN he may consider other ways for an outreach to the public.
In other action, however, the council unanimously agreed to:
n Approve the 2012 Flood Control Master Plan Update and recommend the Regional Flood Control District Board adopt it. It includes $39 million in improvements over a 10-year period. Rapson commented, “Hopefully we won’t get a third 500-years flood during the next 10 years;
n Pass Resolution No. 742, approving an additional contract with the Regional Transportation Commission for the Lower Flat Top Drive Project. The previous contract was for just over $1 million. The second would be for $361,264. Development Service Director Kurt Sawyer noted the RTC would reimburse the city 100 percent of any construction costs, for items left undone after the first contract, such as widening some streets. But not that much remains to be done, so much of the funding will go to other projects;
n Approve an Interlocal Agreement, 10-year lease with the BLM to located its single-engine, fire-fighting tanker plane at the Mesquite Airport for an annual fee of $12,157.50. Gustaveson asked if during that time more aircraft might be added. A second is possible, but flights are limited to the daytime hours. Nonetheless, Gustaveson suggested allowing public comment from neighbors before additional aircraft are housed there’
n Accept $117,000 from the RTC for maintenance and reconstruction of city streets, increasing the RTC contribution to $658,971. That will be used toward the city’s $1.4 million 2012 Phase 1 Arterial & Collector Street Reconstruction Project’
n Amend its contract with Forsgren Associates, Inc., for the design and bidding services for the Pioneer Shared Use Path. Total cost is to be $58,795. The Nevada Department of Transportation is to provide 90 percent of the funding;
n Approve transferring the gaming license for Maverik, 14 N. Sandhill Blvd., to United Coin Services; and to
n Agree for Virgin Valley Family Services (VVFS) to renovate and occupy addition space in the Old Gym on First North Street. That’s the location for the Mesquite Boxing Club, which VVFS sponsors. VVFS will move out of its old offices and consolidate it services in the historic gym building.