City changes sign code to allow for more flash in designs

Signs can get a lot flashier following a change to the city’s sign code.

Grand Junction City Council members voted unanimously Monday night to alter the city’s sign code to allow sign text and animations to flash, blink, “chase,” change color or have animated effects. Signs can change no more often than once each second, but city staff recommends changes closer to once every two to three seconds.

City documents cite a Federal Highway Administration report called “Potential Safety Effects of Electronic Billboards on Driver Attention and Distraction” as evidence changing the sign code may not increase traffic accidents involving distracted drivers.

The report found no conclusive correlation between traffic safety and the frequency of changes in electronic signs.

Councilman Tom Kenyon said he likes the change because it will allow businesses more freedom in advertising. City Planning Manager Lisa Cox said the sign code won’t likely lead to drastic changes.

“It will allow more flexibility in message and interval,” she said.

Earlier in the night, the issue of sign code enforcement in part led council members to reject a proposal to have the city take ownership of U.S. Highway 6 along North Avenue from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

In exchange for maintaining the roadway without the usual $90,000 a year CDOT typically reimburses the city for maintaining North Avenue, the city would have passed ownership of three bridges around the interchange of U.S. Highway 50 and Riverside Parkway to CDOT. The exchange would save the city millions in maintenance and eventual bridge replacement costs, City Public Works and Planning Director Tim Moore said.

Council members were not convinced the savings on bridge work would be worth paying for North Avenue maintenance plus the yearly $7,000 electric bill for streetlights on the roadway, which CDOT currently pays.

“I don’t think either the city or CDOT has the money to do this (bridge) work,” Councilman Tom Kenyon said.

The memorandum of understanding with CDOT also mentioned the city taking control of enforcement of a federal sign law regulating billboards and other off-site advertising, something City Manager Laurie Kadrich said was a debatable transfer, considering the roadway wouldn’t be a state highway anymore and other city-owned roads don’t have to follow the federal rule.

Councilman Gregg Palmer called the loss of nearly $100,000 in revenue plus a new sign law to enforce “the fly in the ointment” that prevented him and four other council members from voting for the change in ownership.

Moore said the city could gather some benefit in the switch by having to clear one less bureaucratic hurdle in CDOT any time the city wanted to change something on North Avenue, but he also couldn’t remember any times CDOT stood in the way of changes on the street.

Mayor Bruce Hill said he doesn’t believe the department of transportation will impede progress with the city’s North Avenue plan.

“I don’t think CDOT will be a barrier to that,” he said.


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