Common-sense sign bill unfairly portrayed


LD 1405 would help businesses and would create jobs without adverse effect on the environment.

Recent news coverage has unfairly depicted a regulatory reform bill, LD 1405, to be virtually the same as another bill, LD 1367, which proposes to use billboards as a revenue source.

The corrections proposed by LD 1405 have been getting lost in the emotional fire storm created by LD 1367 and the ambiguous media coverage it has received.

Sadly, the opponents of billboards (including newspapers by the way they have handled the story) can’t be bothered to get their facts straight.

Here is what LD 1405 would do:

• Adopt the Federal Highway Administration description for a business site or principal structure;

• Allow an on-premises sign to be placed within 2,500 feet of the principal structure or business;

• Adopt breakaway mounting methods as the performance standard for signs within 20 feet of a paved travel way with more that two travel lanes;

• Allow messages on changeable signs to change once per minute;

• Establish the maximum percentage of a sign that can be a changeable display at 80 percent of the overall area of the sign;

• Permit up to one changeable sign to be placed on each street frontage on the business site;

• Allow changeable signs to be viewed from the interstate system as permitted by federal guidelines;

• Define a time and temperature sign as a special type of changeable sign capable of changing up to once every two seconds;

• Allow real estate signs up to 2 feet by 3 feet in size to be placed at the ends of roads to advertise properties on dead-end roads;

• Increase the maximum height for freestanding signs from 25 feet to 35 feet to increase reaction time;

• Allow for changeable signs wherever permitted by local code to be able to display pictures;

• Propose taller signs, up to 100 feet, adjacent to the interstate for traveler services only (food, fuel or accommodations). Permitting would be administered by the Maine Department of Transportation.

Except for this last item, the rest have been well-received by businesses and trade organizations until the bad press coverage caused a few to back down for fear of negative repercussion from the fallout created in the media.

One poorly framed series of quotes attributed to Dan Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, affirmed that Maine did the right thing by banning billboards and should not reinstate them. It made it sound as if he objected to both bills.

His words were then used by opponents to billboards in the hearing against LD 1405, despite the fact that he was clearly not talking about on-premises signs.

Connors has told me that the only part of LD 1405 he takes issue with is the part dealing with the taller signs along the interstate. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade, has agreed that this section could be removed from the final version.

With this section removed, Connors is willing to endorse LD 1405 as a pro-business bill dealing with making needed corrections to where the law was found to be too restrictive after 30 years of experience following its implementation.

LD 1405 fixes problems in the original Traveler Information Act of 1981. It enhances the ability of businesses to communicate to potential customers via their on-premises signs.

Studies have shown that, for some businesses, a sign could be responsible for as many as 48 percent of new customers because of impulse stops. LD 1405 would not add signs unless there happened to be an expansion of new businesses.

LD 1405 would not prevent the local community from implementing more stringent sign codes, just as they always have been able to do. What LD 1405 would do is return private property rights to businesses and give the traveler greater opportunity to find the businesses and services they seek.

LD 1405 would help businesses and would create jobs without adverse effect on Maine’s visual environment.

The newspaper is wrong when is says that there is nothing wrong that requires fixing. If that were the case, then why is Maine consistently at the bottom of the economic charts in the Forbes lists?

Perhaps LD 1405 is what is needed to help straighten things out. LD 1405 would not add a single billboard in Maine, but it might create a few jobs.

Paul Lessard is co-owner of Neokraft Signs of Lewiston.