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Erik Sine

Concord electric sign ban prompts lawsuits

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Concord electric sign ban prompts lawsuits

December 23, 2006

CONCORD, N.H. --Businesses challenging the city's ban on electronic signs are getting help from a major sign manufacturer and an international trade association.

Carlson's Chrysler and Naser Jewelers are suing the city over an ordinance that initially limited the signs and then banned them entirely. Barlo Signs, a Hudson-based sign maker that earns about $12 million a year in revenue, helped Carlson's find a lawyer and provided money for legal fees, as has the International Sign Association.

A spokesman for the association, David Hickey, said the group got involved because the lawsuits could set a regional and national precedent for regulating electronic signs.

Until last spring, the city allowed electronic signs that displayed the time, temperature and date but prohibited all other messages. After a judge ruled that the ordinance violated the First Amendment because it limited the kind of speech displayed, the city voted to ban all electronic signs so it could have some time to come up with new regulations.

City officials have cited concerns about flashing or scrolling messages distracting drivers, though they acknowledge no traffic studies link the signs to accidents. Ham Rice, the city's code administrator, said he doesn't want the city to look like Exit 20 in Tilton.

"The signs become overpowering," he said. "I find it very distracting and difficult to see at night."

City manager Tom Aspell said the city has a right to determine what it will look like years from now.

"Does the community have a right to set its standards for what it wants to be, whether it's downtown or on Loudon Road or anything else?" he said.

Businesses say the city could regulate the signs without banning them altogether.

"To not allow someone to have the use of electronic signs is really living in the dark ages as far as how retail works now," said Holly Carlson, the car dealership's general manager. The dealership was allowed to install an electronic sign when it applied for one after the court repealed the ordinance and before officials approved the ban.

Don Reed, a spokesman for Barlo Signs, said adding an electric component to a sign can cost up to $50,000 but is one of the most inexpensive ways for a business to increase advertising. Businesses switching from a sign with letters that are changed manually have seen business increase by as much as 25 percent, he said.

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Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.cmonitor.com

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Not blaming you, SG, because the title of the article says it also, but the ban seems to be on electronic message boards from what I gather, not electric signs. That's bad enough, but there are probably hundreds of cities that have banned electronic message boards. No real news here, except that the newspaper tried to sensationalize the story, which is not really news either.

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Actually now that I think about it, posting this twice is dumb. It is true what you say that banning electronic boards is no big news BUT! I was just trying to show that in another post that the ISA stepped in on this deal at the same time period that Vermont banned Neon and I saw no news where this was posted on the ISA website about Vermont or them stepping in also to help out the Neon industry. :P\\

Maybe I should delete this

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If you delete it, will my post count be lessened by 1? :bawling: 2, if you count this one.

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