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Dillon explores use of electronic signs

NICOLE FORMOSAsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk
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DILLON – Dillon town officials want to make sure that when motorists drive between Silverthorne and Dillon on Highway 6, they know they’re passing into a new town.So for the past year, they’ve been discussing a landmark project to be built on a quarter-acre patch of town-owned land on the corner of Anemone Trail and Highway 6, behind Christy Sports.The latest version of the project would include a sign that would look similar to the Colorado Department of Transportation signs on the Interstate that update drivers on weather conditions, only smaller and in color.Problem is, the town’s sign code prohibits “signs which contain animated or automatic changeable copy, unless specifically permitted by the code.”The town has applied for an amendment that would exempt municipal public information signs and monuments from the code. The planning and zoning commissions approved the amendment by a 3-2 vote earlier this month.The council postponed a decision on the amendment at its May 16 meeting in order to discuss it further at a Tuesday work session. It will re-address the issue at its June 6 meeting, but is expected to table the amendment until it sees the final design of the proposed landmark project, said town planner Melissa Wyatt.

The council approved the funding for the project’s design last November, but hasn’t approved money for the construction, Wyatt said.Is the exemption right?The potential amendment spurred a philosophical discussion between council members at its work session over whether the town should be allowed to use a type of sign that is prohibited for local businesses.Town manager Jack Benson said that as a government entity, the town is responsible for its health, safety and welfare, and using the sign as a marketing tool to attract visitors would help ensure the long-term economic health of the town. “I still struggle with coming up with any kind of defense if some business says to me why can the town do it and I can’t. I’m still struggling with that to be honest; it doesn’t feel right,” said Mayor Barbara Davis.

Councilmembers Suzanne Hebert and Judee Cathrall agreed that they weren’t sold either on why the town should have a privilege its business owners do not enjoy.Councilmember Don Parsons agreed with Benson, saying that if the town can put up stoplights and parking signs when the private sector cannot, than it should be able to use a specific type of sign that businesses are barred from using. “I don’t think we’re establishing a precedent that we haven’t already established in our ways of doing business in town,” Parsons said.More than anything else, Councilmember Noel Hess took issue with the project’s price tag, which is estimated as high as $270,000, although he did say that he too would have trouble approving an amendment that only applied to town government.”There’s no way at this point I could agree with this sort of thing, it’s too much money,” Hess said. “… Ladies and gentlemen, I think they ought to hang me by my thumbs if we spend $275,000 for a sign down there by Christy Sports.”The actual sign would cost about $60,000, with most of the remaining price paying for landscaping, Benson said.

Council members asked Benson to see if the costs could be cut on the project, and to look into alternatives to the electronic sign before bringing it back to them.The planning and zoning commission is scheduled to review the application for the landmark project on June 14.What the sign will look likeThe latest version of the project calls for two 4 feet 9 inch by 9 feet, 11 inch LED electronic signs, formed in a V-shaped – to enable drivers in both directions to see the signs’ wording – encased in brick and surrounded by landscaping. The signs would slowly scroll messages such as “Sail into Dillon” in front of a landscape of a sailboat on the reservoir, and information on upcoming town events. Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at nformosa@summitdaily.com.


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