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Proposed sign ordinance a huge step backward

By Sarah and Andy Roubik, Corvallis

If the current sign ordinance changes that are being discussed are implemented, the maximum sized off premise sign allowed on highway 93 in Ravalli County will be 672 square feet, 48′ x 14′. That is as big as a house. This is the maximum size allowed by the state and the proposed change in the ordinance would relinquish our right to regulate the size of billboards on the highway.

In 2000, people were alarmed at the large 672 sf billboards that went up in Stevensville on the highway, just north of Kootenai Creek Road. They came together, and with the commissioners, they adopted the sign ordinance that has been successful in other counties. Basically, the people of Ravalli County said that they don’t want huge, distracting billboards lining the highway, nor any other place in the county.

This is done in many places successfully. It was done here. We have the power over our own county roads, including the highway. The huge 672 sf is the size of the double billboards seen on the highway. The state statute says that we can make that more restrictive if we want. We wanted to and we did. This ordinance has been in effect for 12 years. The current commission has opened up discussion to change that. In this discussion they seem to be deciding to forego anything more restrictive on the highway so we will be stuck with allowing 672 sf signs the entire length of the highway. That is far too big.

On the table right now is a change of the maximum allowable size from the current 32 sf  (the size of a piece of plywood) to 672 sf, which is 21 sheets of plywood. This is an increase of 2000%. That is not a typo. It would increase the allowable sign size by 2000%.

The proposal includes a restriction of 336 sf for signs in the rest of the county. All roads except the highway would be restricted to 336 sf. 24′ x 14′. That is also huge – the size of the current single billboards that are on the highway. This would be allowed on all county roads including the street that your home is on.

The point is that we didn’t want large billboards and that is why we, the people and the earlier commission, adopted the ordinance.

Tourists come here for our natural beauty. They don’t want to see huge billboards lining our roads. The only people who gain from the huge billboards are the out of state billboard companies and the folks who lease their land to them for the signs.

The rest of us have to see them constantly as we travel down the road.

Please note that this is only for off-premise signs. It does not apply to a business advertising on its site as there are no regulations for that.

If increasing the allowable off-premise sign size by 2000% on the highway and by 1000% on all secondary roads bothers you, please make it known. Please e-mail the commissioners at:

commissioners@rc.mt.gov or call them at 375-6500.

At the last meeting, the commissioners indicated that they wanted to hear from the people. They want to know what you want. Is 32 sf too small for you? Is 672 sf on the highway and 336 sf on all other roads too large for you? Please think about what you would like to see, both on Hwy 93 and the rest of the county. There will be one more meeting regarding this. Please make your thoughts known.

 

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