By Marina Weatherly, Stevensville
The Ravalli County Commissioners are currently in the process of changing our existing Sign Regulations to permit installation of mega- billboards along the Highway 93 corridor, which will reflect a 2000% size increase from existing signage. Side road signs would be increased in size by 1000%. Public notice regarding these changes was minimal, and the meeting times were held on Monday mornings, when most working folks could not attend.
In 2000, in response to strong public opposition of the installation of mega-billboards which obstructed the highway view shed, the county created their own local Sign Regulations that were stricter than the MDOT regulations. Since that time, travelers along Highway 93 have both been able to enjoy the Bitterroot view shed and read the existing billboards perfectly fine. Advertising is necessary to our economy and the current size is perfectly visible without destroying the natural beauty of our valley. Tourists and recreationists who contribute to our local economy will no longer be attracted to the natural beauty of the Bitterroot Valley if it is defiled by large scale commercialism and will hesitate to make this area a destination. This unique valley will become like anywhere USA.
For the past 10+ years, hundreds of county citizens from Florence to Hamilton have given time and energy to coordinate with MDOT and the County to design and create an esthetic and unique highway corridor through the Bitterroot Valley that we can all enjoy. Taxpayer dollars have gone towards a valley wide bike path, welcoming entrances into communities, landscaped areas and safety features. Throughout this lengthy process we had the Commissioners’ support in guiding us through countless meetings towards the common goal of beautifying our highway corridor.
Now they are guiding us in a totally different direction that negates and disrespects all the hard work citizens have contributed towards making this valley a beautiful place to live, work and commute.
So why the change and who is asking for it? At the last meeting, the Commissioners could not come up with an answer to this question, or provide record that anyone one was in favor of the proposed changes and yet the first reading of their proposed changes were approved. Is it for the benefit of out of state sign companies, a few large businesses who can afford the price of large-scale advertising, or the property owners who stand to make more rental money from larger signs? It is certainly not for the benefit of the majority of Ravalli County residents who value the view shed as they commute. All comments were strongly in favor of keeping the regulations as they are.
We need to protect and respect the unique natural beauty of the valley, not destroy it. To do so would have longterm negative impact on our local economy and contribute to unnecessary visual pollution. The existing sizes are fine as is. We can see them, read them and we can also enjoy the view as we drive.
If you care about preserving the scenic beauty of the Bitterroot Valley and agree that you can read the existing signs just fine, please act now and call or write the commissioners and plan to attend the final meeting on Monday, October 15 at 10 a.m. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. or phone 375-6500.