Fayetteville Pulls Plug On Big Electronic Billboards

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The Fayetteville City Council voted unanimously Thursday to restrict the use and design of electronic billboards in the city.

The measure passed without discussion and without any public comment.

Several electronic billboards line up along Interstate 540. Many local gas stations and convenience stores also use electronic video signs.

Signs that flash or are too bright “would be far more dangerously distracting signs related to traffic safety and far more degrading to Fayetteville’s prized aesthetics and beauty,” states a letter to the mayor’s office from the city attorney. “What is fine for the Las Vegas Strip or New York Times Square is not appropriate for Fayetteville.”

No signs in Fayetteville violate the ordinance, but city officials felt it was necessary to set a precedent to avoid future conflict, said Jesse Fulcher, city planner.

The amended ordinance seeks to prohibit signs that flash or blink or signs that are brighter than 0.3 foot candles above ambient light levels. A foot candle is a unit of measurement for determining brightness.

The ordinance also states signs cannot exceed 32 square feet and may not be used in residential districts.

Some signs along the interstate, outside of Fayetteville, stretch to 20 feet tall and as wide as 60 feet, equaling 1,200 square feet. That number is 38 times the maximum allowed size for signs under the amended ordinance.

The city attorney’s letter also states that “super bright television screen signs” would unfairly force businesses to purchase signs to keep up with their competitors.

“For fairness’ sake, the city needs to promptly amend the sign ordinance to prohibit this type of sign so we can keep the sign competition playing field level and equitable for all businesses,” the letter states.

"We didn't want overpowering signs,” City Attorney Kit Williams told 5NEWS. Signs that were so bright as you have probably seen in other areas that they really draw your attention. Fairly unsafe and also probably hurt the aesthetics of Fayetteville, and so we wanted to make sure that we wouldn't have the super bright signs come in and try to overpower all the existing signs."

Unlike other electronic billboards which often change five or more times per minute, Fayetteville’s amended sign ordinance now allows a sign to change its message no more than once every three hours.

The city of Fayetteville’s sign ordinance dates back to 1972. There have been changes along the way, but newer sign technologies such as liquid crystal displays and light-emitting diodes were not addressed until Thursday’s meeting.

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