Editorial: It’s Redmond’s choice on electronic billboards

Redmond’s distaste for billboards isn’t new. The city’s vision statement calls for their gradual elimination, and its code includes numerous restrictions on billboard lighting and movement.

But the code didn’t envision new electronic versions like one that recently appeared in the north end of Bend near U.S. Highway 97 and Cooley Road. Installation of that billboard prompted calls to Redmond’s Community Development Department, which has now drafted revised language to ban digital technology in billboards in that city.

That’s a choice Redmond is entitled to make, even if neighboring cities make different decisions. And if the community is committed to such limits, it’s wise to act quickly to clarify the code in response to new technology.

As Bulletin reporter Leslie Pugmire Hole wrote Thursday, the current code prohibits signs that are “illuminated by any flashing, intermittent revolving, rotating, or moving lights. … However, this does not apply to traffic control signs or signs providing public service information such as time, date, temperature, (or) weather information.”

To be sure the code blocks electronic billboards, staff has proposed adding: “This prohibition also applies to electronic, digital, liquid crystal diode, light emitting diode, motion signage, rotating louvers, and similar digital technologies for new billboards or modified billboards.”

The revision was presented Monday to the Redmond Urban Area Planning Commission, which plans a public hearing on Sept. 15. If approved, the changes would make Redmond’s code more restrictive than Oregon and federal rules that allow digital signs. The state, however, allows cities to control billboards inside city limits.

Billboards have long been contentious. On the plus side, they provide information and are effective advertising. But many people find them unattractive.

As Redmond resident Debbie Stumbaugh wrote in a letter to The Bulletin published July 19: “It’s not bad enough that we are assaulted by advertisements on every type of media, we are now being bombarded on the street.” For Stumbaugh, the digital billboards are “monstrosities” that don’t belong in Redmond’s “green, environmentally conscious community.”

If her fellow Redmond residents agree, they should be sure their elected officials know it.