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Speed limits for ads on highway?

Flowery Branch City Council delays decision on electric signs on I-985

POSTED: June 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Safety was the main topic raised in a Flowery Branch City Council meeting where an electronic sign ordinance was discussed.

The council voted Wednesday to extend the 60-day sign moratorium for two more weeks until the City Council’s next meeting on June 4 to allow for more discussion on the sign ordinance.

At the center of the discussion was the length of time light-emitting electronic signs and rotating tri-vision signs should display a message to drivers on Interstate 985.

The ordinance Flowery Branch attorney Ron Bennett presented to the council Wednesday proposed a 10-second display for each electronic sign message, which is the state minimum.

Councilman Craig Lutz voiced concerns that the fast-paced messages flashing on signs near the interstate might be distracting to drivers.

He proposed a 53-second minimum message change for electronic signs on the highway, which roughly translates to drivers perceiving one message while traveling 70 miles per hour over a one-mile distance as they approach the sign.

"We can make our roads safer by taking away distractions by regulating (these signs)," Lutz said during the meeting.

Despite Lutz’s safety concerns, Councilwoman Mary Jones supported the state minimum of a 10-second display for electronic sign messages.

"I don’t think you can protect people against themselves," Jones said.

No one showed up to speak for or against the sign ordinance at a public hearing held Thursday.

Bennett said the task is to make signage in Flowery Branch attractive to advertisers, who want as many messages as possible on a display, while taking into account the safety of citizens.

He recommended the council adopt the state minimum of 10 seconds for revolving messages, which is most likely to hold up in any potential litigation advertisers might initiate against the city.

First Amendment rights to freedom of speech must also be taken into account when adopting the sign ordinance, Bennett added.

The council unanimously approved the initial ordinance proposal, with the understanding that Bennett would review the legalities and risks surrounding the latest advancements in signage technology before the council takes final action on the ordinance on June 4.


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