Pocatello considering a permanent ban on all billboards within city limits

Pocatello

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Doug Lindley, Idaho State Journal

POCATELLO — Contention surrounding the construction of electronic billboards in Pocatello city limits has City Council members considering permanently banning all billboards.

Dozens of representatives from signage and billboard companies dissented the proposal to remove all billboards, or off-premise signs as defined by the city, from Pocatello city code during an informational session on Thursday hosted at City Hall.

“The reality is that we have an established business and (Pocatello) is talking about removing that business from us after it was already awarded,” said Bill Fuerst, the general manager for Riverbend Communications. “We feel like we are in jeopardy because of some rulings that are quickly approaching a definitive position, and it seems as if it was a knee-jerk reaction.”

The Pocatello City Council in June issued a temporary ban on all billboards on the heels of several exception requests filed by individuals or businesses interested in constructing billboards or signs that existing city code prohibited.

During a Council study session in August, a majority of council members supported a complete ban on all billboards. And on Thursday, Melanie Gygli and Matt Lewis with the city’s Planning & Development Services Department presented a revised draft of the signage code changes that, in addition to cleaning up some confusing verbiage, completely removed the section on billboards.

“The Council was seeing way too many issues and exceptions with signs and billboards, which led us to believe that something is wrong with the code,” Gygli told the Idaho State Journal. “Today, what we wanted to do was create a time where we could provide constituents with information that we put together at the Council’s direction and receive information regarding how they feel or how this could impact them.”

Gygli said that in preparation of the informational session, members of the city’s Planning & Development Services Department analyzed sign code from several cities with populations and geographic locations similar to Pocatello.

Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England said during a Thursday phone interview that Chubbuck has banned billboards since before he was elected.

“We don’t allow off-premise signs and the concept is that billboards will just go away altogether,” England said. “About the only time someone challenges the code is when a new business comes into town. It’s not that we don’t want to be business friendly; it’s just something that we implemented.”

The President and CEO of Pocatello-Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce Matthew Hunter said he expects the Chamber will most likely be opposed to Pocatello banning billboards.

The decision to ban all billboards in Pocatello will affect both large companies like YESCO Custom Electrical Signs, an Ogden, Utah-based company that has more than 100 offices that reach from coast-to-coast, as well as smaller companies like Rob Kirkham’s Pocatello-based business, Dale’s Outdoor Advertising.

“This would put a large limitation on my ability to grow my business,” Kirkham said. “I hate to say this but I’m a really small company. I’m a third-generation Pocatellan, all of my signs are here and I’m not like these big companies that are looking in California for other advertising locations. I’m looking right here, this is how I feed my family and this will really impact my life a lot.”

Not only would the decision affect the advertising companies directly, but would indirectly affect the customers these companies represent or do business with daily.

“We are a sign company but we are also the voice for literally thousands of customers,” said Jeff Young, the senior vice president of YESCO Custom Electrical Signs, a company that has worked with Pocatello’s Relight the Night committee to restore several downtown Pocatello neon signs. “We represent a lot of customers in saying that signs are an invaluable part of their business plan to find and get customers. Any ban simply pushes back on business and cut back on clear, vital economic forces.”

The decision to ban billboards in Pocatello is not definite at this point, and Gygli said that based on feedback from the informational session, the city’s planning and development department will ask the City Council to implement one suggestion obtained from the meeting, which is to formulate a committee of interested stakeholders that would include representatives from sign companies, Pocatello citizens and city staff.

Any information regarding the proposed changes will be discussed at a Council study session on Oct. 12 at 9 a.m. in the Pocatello city chambers.

THis article was originally published in the Idaho State Journal. It is used here with permission.

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