Payson Relaxes Rules, Limits Electronic Signs

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Payson signs can now flash.

Change text.

Dance and flash.

But very, very slowly.

The Payson Planning Commission this week approved a change in the town’s often complained about sign ordinance, designed to adjust to the latest sign technology.

Specifically, the commission approved electronic and animated signs — providing the display doesn’t change more than once every 20 seconds.

The town’s traffic engineer recommended the 20-second restriction, on the grounds that more active animated signs could distract drivers.

“Historically, animated or scrolling signs have not been allowed based on safety factors,” the town’s contract Community Development Director Ray Erlandsen wrote in a memo to the planning commission. In cooperation with the town engineer, a minimum of 20-second intervals has been established as reasonable for animated signs and message boards to change the message.”

Over the years, the town’s attempt to develop and enforce a tough sign ordinance has drawn more ire from the business community than almost any other element of town government.

Some business owners have spent months — sometimes more than a year — waiting for an approval of a new sign. Some business owners have complained about the lack of signs directing shoppers down Main Street, restrictions on the size and number of signs, and restrictions on temporary signs to advertise sales or special events in front of a store.

The town council has repeatedly vowed to make the town more business friendly, a promise that gained urgency as the recession boosted the number of shuttered storefronts —and handicapped the town’s recruitment efforts.

The planning commission approved the loosening of restrictions on signs that change the displayed information periodically, bowing to a rapidly spreading new sign technology.

The commission did add one nifty footnote to the 20-second flash rule — “Automated signs utilized by law enforcement, public agencies, emergencies, events of a general townwide or public benefit or other similar activities as determined by the town’s zoning administrator are exempt.”

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