The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

January 22, 2013

Pull plug on electronic signs

Geistown may retool billboard ordinance

— Our readers are proactive when it comes to protecting their visual landscape.

Propose strip mines, cut down neighborhood elm trees, erect cellphone towers nearby, or let a blighted, burned-out building stand for any length of time and they’ll take local government leaders to task.

But erect a flashing, bright, eye-popping electronic billboard along a busy highway and they’ll nearly bring traffic to a halt gawking at the messages.

We don’t get it. Where’s the outrage?

Our area is being overtaken by billboard signs. Doesn’t anybody care or worry? Doesn’t anybody want to stop it?

Well, yes. Geistown Borough council members last week decided to revisit its billboard ordinance in reaction to LED-lit signs invading their picturesque community.

“We’re in an era where everyone’s saying don’t text or talk on the phone when you drive ... but there are these big, flashing billboards taking your attention off the road,” Councilman Joe Sernell told fellow board members.

Good point.

The council, according to our David Hurst, plans to amend its existing ordinance to regulate where the billboards can be placed – and perhaps their brightness, height and size.

We have a better suggestion: Ban them.

Period.

One of our readers informed us that more than 80 billboards cover a 4-square-mile radius in one section of the city of Johnstown.

How obnoxious.

Geistown council members say a draft could be up for review at their February meeting.

If they decide to amend their ordinance, a special meeting would be required.

They have our support.

This is more than a blight issue. This is also a safety issue.

We urge other local governments to follow Geistown’s lead.

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