Reno City Council’s Wednesday meeting is looking to be one with some contention: A new ordinance for on-premise digital signs is back for discussion and possible action.
Sign companies, casinos and businesses favored lifting a moratorium — enacted January 14, 2015 and extended for two months in September — on new digital signs while the city’s sign ordinance was updated in order to reflect current technology.
The city held public workshops and lengthy planning commission meetings since January to hash out what should be changed in sign codes. A mountain of comments and contrary views faced proposed changes.
At its November 4, 2015, meeting, the city council heard public comment from both Scenic Nevada and business representatives who were opposed to the then draft ordinance.
Scenic Nevada opposed the changes to the ordinance, with one reason being the proposed brightness level of digital signs.
Others questioned the updates to the ordinance. Concerns included negative impacts to business opportunities, reductions in the ability to advertise and expensive modifications to existing signs in to order to meet new code requirements.
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At the November 4 council meeting, however, the council voted for its own version of the ordinance, one that Scenic Nevada’s Lori Wray said ignores months of input from the public and the city’s own planning commission.
“A lot of time and effort from the community, the city’s planning and legal staff and the Reno Planning Commission went into developing a draft to control digital on-premise signs, which was tossed out and replaced without much deliberation by the city council,” she said.
Councilman Oscar Delgado, who made the motion to change the ordinance at the Nov. 4 meeting from what the planning commission had proposed, said that the motion arose from considering all sides of the issue.
“My motion came about from homework, from listening to constituents on both sides, from meeting with staff, diving into the detail and really trying to come up with something that was going to hopefully provide answers on both sides,” he said. “Of course whenever you draft a policy or anything else you know you’re not going to make everyone happy.
“Essentially, I thought that what I provided at least allowed for the opportunity to have conversation around what was the real issue, and that was (digital sign) brightness.”
Councilmember Jenny Brekhus voted against the city council’s version — she was the council’s only “no” vote — saying that not enough time was given to discuss the new changes.
“I am troubled that we are not willing to sit on this … and go through a little more process…” she said.
Mayor Hillary Schieve disagreed and said, “I know Councilwoman Brekhus thought that we had rushed this, but … this has been going on a year, so I actually do think a lot of people are compromising tonight. It’s one of those things where … people will walk away and be unhappy or have some issues with what we ultimately decided.”
In a statement on its website, Scenic Nevada described the council’s actions like this:
In a surprise move the city council recently agreed to dump all of the proposed community-driven digital sign regulations in favor of new ones that perpetuates existing video, scrolling and flashing signs 24/7 and would allow new ones to pop up throughout the city. The new draft digital sign regulations will be reviewed November 18 in a public hearing. With little discussion of the far stronger regulations presented in the November 4 draft, Mayor Hillary Schieve and Councilman Oscar Delgado astonished the room with an entirely new draft that obviously had been written prior to the noticed public hearing.
“It’s very disappointing, very frustrating,” Wray said. “Writing code this way is bad public policy and this outcome, if given final approval, does nothing to protect public safety, property values, community character and scenic views.”
“We actually made tighter regulations,” he said. (Read a summary of the council’s ordinance changes here.)
The Council is scheduled to hear the issue at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Amendments may be made to the ordinance at the meeting, Delgado said.
North Valleys Development Also Up For Discussion
Also up for approval is an ordinance change that will allow a new development in the North Valleys for multifamily residential units at Sky Vista. Citizens and Ward 4 Neighborhood Advisory Board members are opposed to multifamily units for a variety of reasons, including traffic impacts, impacts to local school student populations, parking availability and questions about where water rights will come from.
The development is proposed by Silverwing Development, the same group that was criticized last City Council meeting for pulling a donation to help improve Virginia Lake’s water quality, a donation that was later put back on the table.
Read the complete City Council agenda, and supporting materials, online: http://renocitynv.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=1190
Citizens may submit comments to the Mayor and council by emailing the City Clerk: http://www.reno.gov/government/departments/city-clerk
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.