Not a Sign of Things to Come
As some of you have noticed, a new electronic sign is being installed at the location of the Blue Rock Medical Offices located at 3152 N. University Avenue in Provo. The sign is much larger than other signs on the corridor and, to many, will seem out of place. Additionally, the sign is inconsistent with the North University Avenue Design Corridor included in the City’s land use ordinances. The reaction from citizens made aware of the sign has been almost uniformly negative with a high degree of intensity. I can’t say I disagree with their feelings. But I need to explain the background and circumstances related to the sign, as I have understood it.
Blue Rock applied for a building permit for this medical office building in 2010. At that time, the company desired to submit a permit application for the sign too, but city staff apparently indicated that the company should wait until utilities and other improvements were in place, so that better information pertaining to the sign would be available. Between that time and the time the company submitted its application, city ordinances related to the size and operation of electronic signs were changed, limiting the uses of electronic signs along this corridor. When the city indicated that the desired sign could not be approved for a permit, the company and its principle owner filed a lawsuit against the city.
As the city dealt with the litigation, a number of concerns arose for the city, including a concern that the litigation could open the door for additional large signs along the corridor, if we lost in the lawsuit. Through a settlement agreement allowing the sign and an ordinance change now in process, we believe that risk is being eliminated. Within my administration and the membership of the city council, which has provided input and direction on all major decisions including entering the settlement agreement, there has been a strong desire to protect this important roadway and design corridor. This large sign clearly goes against the desired feel of that area and is probably not what any of the elected officials would have wanted. But we hope that at least some citizens will recognize that this was a measured decision, with advice of counsel, made with a desire to protect the corridor from large signage. This was not a pain-free decision, but it was the one we felt to make, under all the circumstances. Recently, construction of the sign was halted by city inspectors. This was done for a few reasons, including because the sign’s footings were too close to an existing water main located east of University Avenue. Additional litigation has loomed, and we have weighed the risks and benefits of litigating over final details of the sign verses allowing construction to proceed. Subsequent discussions with the owner and his contractor have now resulted in the execution of an indemnity agreement to protect the city from liability associated with the location of the sign. Additionally, the owner has now agreed in writing to comply with certain requirements pertaining to the operation of an electronic sign, such as brightness restrictions and restrictions on how often the images on the sign can change. I truly appreciate those of you who have come in to meet with me or have sent in letters about your concerns. I have taken your concerns very seriously. But after thorough consultation with the city council and the city’s team of engineers, attorneys, and other staff, the decision is to allow construction to proceed. The red tag on the project has been removed and construction will resume. As always, the members of the city council and I remain open to your input. Frankly, we are braced for a hefty amount of criticism on our decisions in connection with this sign. Again, I think we understand the core sentiment well. In fact, I consider it a shared sentiment. But we have made the kind of tough decision that our positions occasionally require us to make. I want to be clear that I have no issue with the company, itself. I am sure the company and its doctors and other staff provide fine service, and I wish them the best as they serve residents in and around our community. But as for the sign, I will remain as I have been all along: not a fan. Michelle Kaufusi Provo City Mayor