Laconia Zoning Task Force eyes restrictions on use of various kinds of electronic signs

LACONIA — The Zoning Task Force, which was convened last year to review the zoning ordinance and propose changes to it, presented its recommendations for amending the regulations bearing on signage to the Planning Board this week.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders said yesterday that a public hearing on the draft proposals will be held at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Planning Board on Tuesday, March 4, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Suzanne Perley, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment who chairs the task force, said that together with adding and refining definitions to the ordinance, the major recommendations concern the illumination of signs, including the regulation of various types of electronic signs.

The task force proposes requiring all illuminated signs to be positioned and directed so as to minimize glare to passersby, especially motorists. Likewise, the ordinance would prescribe standards of brightness between dusk and dawn for signs lit externally and internally as well as those electronic signs that are directly illuminated, which would be required to be equipped with dimming controls.

The proposal distinguishes between "electronic message centers," or EMCs, "animated signs" and electronic changeable copy signs. EMCs , as defined by the task force, are those signs "capable of displaying words, symbols, figures, pictures or images that can be electronically or mechanically changed by remote or automatic means. The task force recommends that all EMCs be fitted with a sensor that automatically dims the sign to match the ambient light at all times of day and night. EMCs display static messages and images, without either actual or apparent movement or variation in intensity, though the face of the sign could change every minute.

"Animated signs" are those with imagery or text in perpetual motion and varying intensity and include signs with scrolling text. Finally electronic changeable copy signs display text for not less than five minutes, but do not include time and temperature signs.

Perley said that rather than recommend where and under what conditions the different types of electronic signage should be permitted, the task force chose to defer the question until after members of the business community and general public have had an opportunity to offer their opinions.