Manhattan May Go Digital

Signs, Signs and more Signs! The Manhattan City Commission pulled out dusty code books and tackled dated sign regulations with City Staff during Tuesday’s work session.

“Not only are we hoping to make our regulations as content neutral as we can,” said Chad Bunger, Senior Planner for the City of Manhattan, “but also addressing new technologies that our signs don’t permit today, and one of those being digital signs.”

Commissioner, Rich Jankovich supports the idea of allowing businesses to use digital signs, but questioned how they will impact traffic. “The idea is that you need to have a message that’s cohesive and understandable in seven seconds, cause that’s really the amount of time. We really need to look at what the traffic flow is in the areas to set it and kind of generalize it. It might be a 30 second shot, or it might be a light-cycle.”

Mayor John Matta also voiced his concern with the aesthetic and safety issues that digital signs may present. I wouldn’t want to see a bunch of signs of all different shapes and sizes with characters running all day long and stuff changing on and off all over the place, no. Just that in its self would be distracting regardless of how much time you may have.”

During the public comment period, two local business owners weighed in and gave two very different opinions. “As far as being well overdue, yeah we’re way long overdue for having these out there,” said Chris Dara, owner of Dara’s Fast Lane.

Bart Thomas, owner of Thomas Outdoor Advertising Inc. was far less enthusiastic about the idea of allowing digital signage. “Recently in Hutchinson, Kansas a fellow put one up and he went full motion on it, and I heard the repercussions on that was unbelievable.”

The general consensus from both the Commission and City Staff was that digital is the way to go, providing there were stipulations in place to preserve safety and community values.

Going Forward, City staff hopes to draft sign regulations in February, engage with the community in March and conduct a work session with the Planning Board in April.