City Council passes six-month moratorium on electronic signs

Monday, October 15, 2012 | 11:01 p.m. CDT; updated 12:19 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 16, 2012

COLUMBIA — In a 4-3 vote Monday evening, the Columbia City Council voted to pass a six-month delay period that prohibits LED signs on the inside of building display cases or windows. 

The moratorium was passed after residents complained about an LED sign inside the A.W. Smith Law Firm building at the intersection of Broadway and Stadium Boulevard, saying it was distracting to drivers. The delay period the council passed will not affect the law firm's sign.

Because of the vote Monday, building owners in Columbia cannot install electronic signs that flash messages inside display cases or windows until April 16, 2013. It will not affect LED signs that existed before Oct. 1.

"Please keep in mind that this is while the Planning and Zoning takes a look at the (permanent) ordinance itself to see if (it) needs to be amended," said Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony, who introduced the ordinance.

During the six-month delay period, the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission will consider a permanent ban on future electronic signs inside display cases in the city.

City ordinances already prohibit electronic flashing display signs placed outside of buildings.

The council also unanimously passed a storm water amendment to allow "highly impervious" sites,such as land covered by pavement, to be subdivided and treated as redevelopment, according to a report to the council from the city manager.

The council also discussed four ordinances related to a potential deal with American Airlines to add twice-daily flights between Columbia Regional Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and daily flights between Columbia and Chicago O'Hare International Airport. The ordinances would do the following:

  • Authorize a revenue guarantee agreement with the airline, whereby the city would compensate the airline if the new flights do not make a certain amount of revenue.
  • Authorize agreements with public and private organizations, such as Boone County, MU, Jefferson City, Cole County and 39 members of the Chamber of Commerce, to put money into the revenue guarantee fund.
  • Authorize an agreement with Zimmer Radio to provide $400,000 of free advertisements, paid for by Zimmer and the city, for the new flights.
  • Appropriate $3 million to the revenue fund. The $3 million includes $1.2 million from the city, $600,000 from Chamber of Commerce members, $500,000 from Boone County, $500,000 from MU, $100,000 from Jefferson City and $100,000 from Cole County.

Many members of the council expressed support for the ordinances, which they will vote on at a special meeting at 8 a.m. on Oct. 22

"I'm very supportive of the work that staff, our mayor and the council have done on this issue," Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony said.

First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt thanked the Columbia business community for "stepping up to the plate" by donating money to the revenue fund.

City Manager Mike Matthes said that the purpose of the advertising agreement with Zimmer Radio was to inform Columbia residents of the new flights "so we don't have to use the new guarantee."

Local attorney John Clark spoke against the ordinances. The city would be "bearing too big of a burden" if it contributed to the revenue fund, he said.

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