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Is Evanston becoming a 'mini Las Vegas?'

Posted: Thursday, Dec 12th, 2013

A sign flashes along Yellow Creek Road in Evanston, wishing passersby a Merry Christmas. Though some have expressed concern about the several flashing signs that have popped up around town after the city changed its sign ordinance, City Planner Paul Knopf says Evanston won’t become overwhelmed by the signs. (HERALD PHOTO/Deborah Demander)

EVANSTON — The flashing sign on Yellow Creek Road grabs the attention of early morning drivers, bleary eyed for their five-minute commute. Above Cazin’s, another flashing sign demands driver’s attention, while the scrolling display on the corner of Bear River Drive distracts drivers while they wait at the stop light.

With new signs proposed for the front of Napa Auto Parts, the corner of Sixth and Front streets, and the fairgrounds, it seems there is no escape from distracting digtal signs.

With the recent change in city ordinance, is Evanston becoming another small town infested with too many flashing signs?

City planner Paul Knopf says emphatically, “No.” In a recent Herald interview, Knopf said, “There is no chance that Evanston will become a mini Las Vegas with automatic changeable copy signs. It’s just not going to happen.

“We still have ordinances in place to prevent that. The size of signs in front of a business is still determined by the road frontage,” Knopf said. “We’re not going to see billboards springing up all over Evanston. What we did was give businesses a little more flexibility to advertise for community events and other businesses. This is a business-friendly change that will promote businesses in the community.”

Knopf added that for free-standing billboards, the saturation point has been reached, and no new billboards are planned for the area.

The change in ordinance, adopted by the Evanston City Council in November, began as a request from the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

“The Chamber wanted to install a changeable copy sign at the corner of Sixth and Front streets,” Knopf said. “They wanted a sign that could advertise local community events. That lot is city property and has been home to a variety of community signs in the past. This is a good place to advertise community events. So we needed to update the ordinance to allow city property to be used for advertising.”

Knopf said the fairgrounds property on the corner of Bear River Drive and Highway 89 is also city property. The Uinta County Fair Board and the city are currently negotiating a new sign for that corner, which, according to Knopf, could be used for a greater purpose. “They could advertise county events, as well as area businesses. The fair board is definitely looking at a new sign as a way to raise revenue.”

Knopf said businesses have always had the ability to have changeable copy signs; the ordinance revision simply allows businesses to advertise for off premise events, goods and businesses.

“I think this will be a good thing for businesses to work together. As a community, we are only as strong as all of us working together.”

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