November 23, 2014

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New laws needed to regulate electronic signs

It's new frontier for sign codes and zoning enforcement.

Amy Keller | 12/14/2011

Susan Trevarthan
Attorney Susan Trevarthan says some communities have ushered in digital billboards without a fight — simply wanting to have the latest sign technology.
As digital billboards proliferate across the state, many Florida cities and counties are amending their sign codes to deal with the new technology. Susan Trevarthan, vice president at Citizens for a Scenic Florida and a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents local governments on land use, planning and zoning law issues and has drafted and defended several sign codes for Florida communities, provides some tips for local governments looking for ways to mitigate safety and aesthetic concerns associated with the electronic signs.


» Limit brightness: While LED displays have to generate a certain level of brightness to be seen, the locality should establish a maximum level that varies based on ambient light conditions and provide a way for measuring the brightness.

» Require a "fail-safe" system, in the event of failure: "What happens if there's a malfunction? You want to make sure the screen goes to black and not to white."
Plan for emergencies: Digital signs require a significant amount of electricity. In the event of an energy brown-out, for instance, mandate the signs will go dark.

» Limit motion: Governments can't dictate the content of the messages, but they can specify the display method, size and other time, place and manner regulations. Regulators can prohibit flashing, blinking and animated signs as well as interactive signs and message sequencing.

» Transition times: Set minimum "dwell" times so drivers will see no more than one message change while passing the sign.

» Distance matters: Set distance and spacing requirements from roadway curves, hills, interchanges, official signs and other digital signs.

Tags: Politics & Law, Government/Politics & Law

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