Bangor code changes could bring electronic signs to downtown, other districts

Posted Aug. 07, 2012, at 5:59 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Some Bangor businesses may brighten up if Bangor city councilors follow a committee recommendation to update and amend the city’s code regarding electronic signs.

The Bangor council’s business and economic committee unanimously voted to recommend approval of code amendments regarding electronic signage, specifically allowing digital and LED signs in urban service districts for the first time.

“We haven’t done a very good job with our ordinances in defining [electronic signage], and [city solicitor] Norm Heitmann said back when we wrote this ordinance, these signs weren’t nearly as prevalent,” said City Manager Cathy Conlow.

An example of an urban service district is the Main Street corridor from downtown to Bass Park. Another example is Maine Avenue, where the Bangor Elks Club would like to place an electronic sign.

It was the Elks’ inquiry into electronic signage that initially spurred the code review.

“We already had an electronic sign ordinance that was created three or four years ago,” said Code Enforcement Officer Jeremy Martin. “But when we looked at it, we saw it was just allowed in a handful of districts, and [urban service districts] were not among them.”

Martin fashioned an amendment which would facilitate the Elks Club’s request, but city councilors preferred a more permanent solution over a stopgap measure.

“We have requests from Elks Club and some places downtown,” said Conlow. “Jeremy was looking at it and trying to put a Band-Aid on it.”

Now, with council approval as early as Monday night, electronic signs will be allowed on a limited basis.

Signs must be set back at least 50 feet from the nearest property line of an urban residential district property, they must have a minimum display duration of 20 minutes and cannot change after dark. In addition, sign display messages must be static, and they must comply with brightness restrictions.

“Long term, we’re not there yet, we’re now just fixing some problems that have resulted because technology has changed and our signage ordinances haven’t,” said Conlow. “This has more to do with free-standing signs.”

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