The Tooele City Council has unanimously approved an ordinance that restricts the use of signs, prohibits the construction of new billboards, and bans electronic billboards.
On June 19, the council passed Ordinance 2013-03, which disallows any existing billboard in the city to be converted to electronic. It also more clearly defines other forms of allowable signage in the city, and creates a zoning administrator (code enforcer).
According to Jim Bolser, the city’s community development and public works director, the matter of allowing billboards to be converted to electronic signs has been discussed by the council for over two years.
“The discussion about the entire ordinance has been going on for several years,” he said. “I think Councilman Pruden said it has been going on at least five years. It has been a long time coming. Billboards are a constant in every community, when you are talking about signs.”
City Planner Rachelle Custer said any existing permanent sign will be allowed to remain. If any existing sign does not comply with the new ordinance, it becomes a legal non-conforming sign.
“The signs cannot be upgraded, but we are not going to ask anyone that already has a permanent sign, that is within code at the time of the change, to remove them,” she said.
Bolser added that by law the city cannot make an owner or owners remove an existing sign unless they are compensated by the city for the removal.
While the council unanimously approved the sign change, representatives from sign companies have objected to the modification of city code.
Bolser said that while sign companies have the right to disagree and publicly discuss the city’s decision, the city did everything by the book.
“State law is specific,” he said, “when it comes to notification of any public hearing, and very specific as to when you have to notify sign holders. Specifically outdoor advertising sign holders — and that is two weeks. The intent of the revisions was to find a way to balance the needs of business advertising with what we want to see for our community. Quite honestly, bringing in the sign companies brings in a different perspective that is outside of that realm.”
While laws regarding billboards were a major point of discussion at the meeting, the ordinance also created an appointed position with the title of zoning administrator.
When appointed the zoning administrator will be in charge of handling the appeals process in regards to city code, Bolser said.
“We are going to sit down after the holiday [Independence Day] and go over the candidates to make sure the appointment is fair,” he said. “The position will be appointed by the mayor and the purpose of the position is to make interpretation of the code whenever there is a conflict between a provision in one chapter and a provision in another chapter.”
The ordinance also made abandoned signs a nuisance to the city, which gives the city a better way of enforcing the laws.
The council also approved a change to allow temporary signs, including banners, at holidays and two 30-day periods throughout the year to be determined by the applicant. This eliminated the need for snipe signs, which where temporary signs affixed to trees and posts.