The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 25, 2013

Supervisors, businesses discuss billboard rules

Night brightness to be regulated

David Hurst
dhurst@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — Area billboard company representatives told Richland Township supervisors Monday they’ll welcome township regulations on the brightness of electronic billboards.

The only hurdle left appears to be settling on a “fair” benchmark for nighttime billboard brightness.

Township officials told representatives of several sign companies Monday that they are willing to permit guidelines with somewhat brighter settings than previously proposed. They may require billboards to be set at a brightness percentage, such as the 7 percent equivalent many manufacturers recommend for modern signs.

But the supervisors first will take a township tour to test several signs “for a baseline,” Solicitor Gary Costlow said.

“I‚Äąthink we should look at some existing signs to see what we’re looking at,” Costlow said, prompting Supervisor Robert Heffelfinger to nominate Richland Township Volunteer Fire Department’s sign as one to test.

Township zoning officer Dave Mills said Richland already is home to at least six digital billboards, all in commercial districts.

Lamar Advertising’s George Lamar asked supervisors to consider easing up on a proposed amendment that would allow new billboards only on undeveloped land.

Lamar and officials from Minahan Signs and Scholar Promotions said their signs are built with the ability to dim at night.

“We welcome regulations,” Minahan President David Crichton said, adding that older signs set “too bright” make it harder for companies like his to sell their signs.

“We just want consistency,” he said.

Minahan said his signs dim from a maximum of 10,000 nits ­– roughly the brightness of 10,000 candles per square meter – down to 700 nits at dusk.

“We supply a four-county area,” Minahan said, “and we’ve never had a complaint.”

His statement prompted other company representatives to note their sign settings are similar.

Costlow cited an Oklahoma case that allowed a community to set signs at 500 nits from dusk to dawn and indicated that setting also might be considered.

Township officials indicated they won’t wait long to enforce existing billboard laws.

Recent checks of existing billboards and digital signs showed some contained animation or short video clips, both of which are banned by the current law, supervisors said.

“We’ll be sending notices out about that,” Costlow said.

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