The Edmond Sun

June 24, 2013

OUR VIEW: Let’s regulate digital signs already

The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — For those who have paid any attention to the city’s tortured discussion these past three years about updating its sign ordinance, we don’t blame any of you for being confused. It’s hard not to be when City Council members are so clearly confused themselves about what they really want, in particular regarding electronic messaging center signs.

At the moment, they are banned, except where grandfathered in such as the scrolling sign at the top of this newspaper’s building, or where allowed in recent years by variance of the City Council. Mostly, the city has allowed small EMCs to show time, date and temperature at banks and other limited uses. But technology’s march is moving on and these types of signs are becoming fine-tuned and more affordable for more businesses.

It’s easy to see why the council might not want to be hasty in changing the ordinance and opening the door to signs that can now utilize full, four-color animation. Especially when three former mayors — two of whom collaborated on the original sign ordinance — all show up at a City Council workshop and denounce a council-appointed citizen committee’s recommendations to allow the signs.

However, we believe that continuing to do nothing in regard to regulating these signs — thereby effectively banning them except for where individual business owners can be winningly persuasive — ultimately harms the city’s business climate. Much of the council’s recent discussions focused on limitations to EMCs that were so outlandish as to effectively not make them worth a business owner’s time and investment. The council should say what it really means. If it truly doesn’t want to allow EMC signs due to aesthetic and public safety concerns, then let’s just say so.

But if the city moves forward with hiring a consultant to provide it information about a “dark sky” ordinance, then we encourage city leaders to clearly regulate time, place and manner of how these signs are used while banning profanity and any messages that outrage public decency. We also believe the city should absolutely regulate both daytime and nighttime brightness of EMCs and confine them to business corridors.

The City Council and city leaders have worked hard the past five years or so to improve the city’s image with the business community. The city has made several positive steps that have improved the development and planning processes immensely. This is no time to revisit that old image of being a difficult city to work with. We urge the council to figure out what it really wants with regard to electronic messaging center signs so that the business community can quit waiting around and invest in this city’s future — digitally or otherwise.