How often an electronic sign can rotate through messages was the focus of the Provo sign committee’s message during the Provo City Council Tuesday afternoon.
In some locations the signs rotate a mere three times a day. Other signs rotate displays once every eight seconds.
Council members who felt eight seconds was too distracting or unsafe suggested a variety of churn times from one to five minutes, but it should be unified throughout the city.
The catalyst for the signage discussion was from concerns raised earlier this year about the Blue Rock Medical sign at 2200 N. University Ave. in the North University Avenue River Bottoms Design Corridor.
On Oct. 5, 2016, Blue Rock filed a complaint against Provo seeking a review of a land use decision after the city denied Blue Rock Medical’s request for a large, digital sign at the new medical center, based on a 1996 code.
Blue Rock contended the city violated the Utah and U.S. constitutions by not allowing the sign. The professional office is within a special zoning designation.
On July 30, 2018, Provo and Blue Rock entered into a settlement agreement and the dispute was dismissed without proceeding through the court. In exchange for dismissal of the civil action and the covenant not to sue, Provo agreed to permit the sign.
By Oct. 24, 2018, against residents’ protest, Blue Rock received a commercial building permit for the sign from Provo. Construction of the sign began around Dec. 15, 2018.
Several residents in the area filed a complaint with 4th District Court this April.
“Even with three times a day we may have some trouble,” said Councilman Dave Sewell. “We need more changes than that.”
The council discussed have the rotation variable the same throughout the city. Council George Handley said he is concerned about safety and does not want to see the “motion picture video” he sees coming up the hill into Orem — referring to the University Place signage.
“Some residents complain about the frequency of change,” Handley said. “Constantly changing has a strobe light affect.”
Sewell said the sign committee hasn’t been able to find a solid study on accidents and how rotation variables contributes to accidents.
The City Council is also wondering how businesses with signs that rotate too fast can be monitored. One suggestion was to synchronize the rotation rate to the speed limit.
“Any sign you put up you’re going to have light pollution,” said Councilman David Knecht. “It’s overly distracting. I find it a nuisance.”
Knecht said the brightness of signs should be limited at night so as not to disturb residents in the area.
Some of the biggest complaints according to Wayne Parker, city chief administrative officer, are in fact from the brightness of Provo City School District signs.
Following an hour of discussion, the council voted to turn the issue to the Planning Commission, to seek resident input and do more research on sign rotation rates.
The council may also choose to send a letter to the school district concerning complaints on brightness of their signs.