Fort Smith officials review billboard regs

There are only 189 that fall under the jurisdiction of the city of Fort Smith, but billboards and their regulation were the focus of a Fort Smith Board of Directors study session held Tuesday (Jan. 22).

The board has passed a moratorium on the construction of new billboards and conversion of conventional billboards to digital pending a review of city policies and, if necessary, changes to billboard ordinances. Members of the Fort Smith Planning Commission were also in attendance at the study session.

Wally Bailey, director of Development Services for the city, said city planning staff has worked with a group of five “stakeholders” to review the policies. The group is: Loyd Childree, president of Clear Channel Outdoor in the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas areas; Chip Paris, director of Client Services for Williams-Crawford & Associates; Craig Roberts, managing partner of RAM Outdoor Advertising; Lorie Robertson, client services with Rightmind Advertising; and Ryan Zaloudik, a real estate manager with Clear Channel Outdoor.

The group settled on a “baseline discussion” to address areas in which existing ordinances are unclear or do not provide guidance. Those areas are:
• Height of proposed outdoor signs;
• Maximum size of outdoor signs;
• Distance of signs from residential areas;
• Regulation of V-type outdoor signs;
• Digital signage;
• Number of signs allowed in the city; and,
• Rules on city regulation of outdoor signs in the extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) range of Fort Smith.

Bailey said there are 189 signs in the city and ETJ, with maybe another 10 applications in the pipeline before the moratorium was enacted. Bailey said most cities have a “cap and replace” rule that sets a limit on the number of billboards but allows a company to “bank” the number of billboards they own. For example, if a company has 100 billboards when the cap is reached, they can remove a billboard, and build another one in an area that meets the code.

As to billboard size, Bailey said the billboard companies were willing to limit the size to 378 square feet on interstates, but down to 300 elsewhere.

City staff is also considering a distance of 250 feet between the centerpoint of a billboard and the closest property line of a residential tract.

There are no city ordinances for digital signs. Bailey said city staff may consider adoption of regulations in place by the Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department so the rules are consistent along the interstate and state highways.

Also, there are no city codes regulating billboard heights. Bailey said staff is considering a minimum requirement of 13 feet and a maximum of 45 feet.

Bailey also noted that billboards are not allowed in the downtown Fort Smith areas within the Central Business Improvement District, and they are not allowed at Chaffee Crossing.

Childree, who was at the Tuesday session, said Clear Channel is always eager to work with municipalities in order to seek consensus and consistency.

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“I’m excited with the fact that the city brought the stakeholders together to have input on this. And I was also pleased that the emphasis was not to be punitive. We look forward to working with them through this process,” Childree explained.

Fort Smith City Director Keith Lau said he hoped Bailey and the working group are able to return to the board with a set of rules and/or rules changes that all parties find amenable.

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Comments

Can't let these slip through

More regulation. No bilboards downtown, no bilboards in Chaffee Crossing, no bilboards here..can't do this, can't do that, not in my back yard, no building larger than this, no building without red brick with white trim, no this no that... I don't know about you, but I can't believe nobody wants to start or bring new businesses in the Fort Smith area. They make it so easy to start, advertise and grow here! Eh, what do I know? I'm just one of those "unemployed types".

yeah, making regulations standard is bad

that the city and thge ad companies are interesting in making the rules standard with what the state has in many places. Terrible thing to do. Otherwise Fort Smith will be so gummed up with boards, it'll look like stretches of Tulsa that always get on the "worst streets in America" lists.

I don't agree

Fort Smith is known all over for being business unfriendly on many fronts and led by regulations and a lack of incentives for bringing in or starting and growing a business. You can have standards on something without over-regulating it to the point of extinction. However, this regulation on billboards is the least of impeding regulations to business but is still an indication of the "Fort Smith Way". Do you really think Tulsa is indicated as "having some of the worst roads" is because of billboards? When I say "this road is horrible" it has nothing to do with billboards. On the same line, Tulsa seems to have a better business foundation and more options for employment so maybe Fort Smith should take notes while also looking at other places where an instant depression is seen by the loss of one or two companies in a single sector. It seems as though the citizens are more interested in turning Fort Smith into a retirement (or homeless) community than on creating business opportunities and jobs.

Retired

A retirement destination for low cost of living, expanding medical services, low crime, low taxes, convenient access by air and highway, university and church activities, slow pace of life are a few good reasons for Fort Smith to pursue senior friendly businesses and development.

happy and retired

fort smith could be a great retirement community because the river valley has much to offer but we need to work on a few things like low crime and low taxes! good comment!

I'm pretty sure after the

I'm pretty sure after the last two comments about "excitement" to turn Fort Smith into some retirement community that there is no hope for this place. So, let me make sure I understand your "hopes". We have a University providing increased levels of education, but you'd prefer the graduates go somewhere else because growth ad jobs are not preferred over your "retirement community". We have two high schools, 4 Jr. Highs, and countless elementary schools which are nearly filled beyond capacity (that's A LOT of kids) but you think Fort Smith's future would best be served by catering to you and your retirement? In your opinion Fort Smith's "Growth Efforts" should be focused directly on a historical museum and "tourism"? I normally would say something like "don't you see you're running people out of town because if your non-progressive "retirement community" efforts and hopes for Fort Smith, but it's easy for me to see that you, many others, and our city leaders simply don't care whether not not there are jobs available to graduates of the university in Fort Smith . Actually, it's frightening that so many people will do whatever is necessary to keep Fort Smith away from growth.

wait a minute no hope

a retirement community usually has a great college, great jobs for younger folks, great entertainment, appreciation of the arts, beautiful parks, a good economy that allows low sales and property taxes, good golf courses, good fishing opportunities, sporting events, great medical and hospital facilities, low crime rate, and has much to offer for all age groups! balance is the main ingredient in creating a real retirement community but it sounds like you are equating a retirement community with and old folks home! active retired people usually have a great income, take exceptional care of their homes and landscaping, do a lot of volunteer work, and provide lots of service jobs to a community!
a retirement community usually has a great college, great jobs for younger folks, great entertainment, appreciation of the arts, beautiful parks, a good economy that allows low sales and property taxes, good golf courses, good fishing opportunities, sporting events, great medical and hospital facilities, low crime rate, and has much to offer for all age groups! balance is the main ingredient in creating a real retirement community but it sounds like you are equating a retirement community with and old folks home! active retired people usually have a great income, take exceptional care of their homes and landscaping, do a lot of volunteer work, and provide lots of ...>> Read the entire comment.

Right Happy Times

Sure, keep telling yourself that Happy Times. Bella Vista has none of the things you mention except golf courses. Hot Springs Village has none of the things you mention except golf courses. Horseshoe Bend has none of the things you mention except golf courses. All three of these are retirement communities like you want to turn Fort Smith into. No thank you. I will pass.

right could be wrong

did you read all the things that a good retirement community should have that was posted in my comment? you just mentioned some existing retirement communities in arkansas and maybe you need to travel to other parts of the country because great retirement communities bring in big money and create a lot of opportunity for younger folks! the young educated people are leaving fort smith for employment elsewhere and the older folks are leaving for life in a great retirement community leaving for smith with the 30, 40, and 50 something age group. wouldn't it be nice if fort smith had opportunity and a great life style for all age groups because most likely you will eventually be one of those seniors. did I see a few gray hairs in your comment?
did you read all the things that a good retirement community should have that was posted in my comment? you just mentioned some existing retirement communities in arkansas and maybe you need to travel to other parts of the country because great retirement communities bring in big money and create a lot of opportunity for younger folks! the young educated people are leaving fort smith for employment elsewhere and the older folks are leaving for life in a great retirement community leaving for smith with the 30, 40, and 50 something age group. wouldn't it be nice if fort smith had opportunity and a great life style for all age groups because most likely you will ...>> Read the entire comment.

I have a Dream: Old Man River(front)

Old Man River, Historic downtown and seniors who have lived a history of their own could coalesce in a townhouse, condo,apartment community terraced from near the riverfront and up the bluffs to 5th street. Relocate the railyards, reclaim the land with superfund money and move into the 21st Century. Imagine scenic views across the river of migrating birds and maybe even boat excursions downriver to complement the seasonal rail excursions. Let's disembark from this slow growth train ride and get on the progress express!

Simple things that could be done

We need anyone with more disposable income: higher wage earners, college kids and, yes, retirees. If rents are going up around UAFS (I assume anywhere within walking distance of the school) as suggested in an earlier article on City Wire, it suggests there is still a lot of demand for student housing. UAFS could start a bus route -- for example, starting at the campus then west on Grand, south on Greenwood, east on Park or Kinkead and back to campus -- with several stops along the route thereby providing students additional residential options in the Tilles Park area where rents are low. More students living in that area would stabilize the neighborhoods, incentivize reinvestment in the current housing stock and likely result in new businesses along Grand Avenue, one of our major arteries to downtown currently with far too much blight, graffiti and other issues. In the long run, it saves the city the trouble of trying to spur development, demolish dilapidated structures, reduce crime, etc. If the city and Chancellor Beran are truly serious about bringing back older parts of town, little steps like this could go a long way.
We need anyone with more disposable income: higher wage earners, college kids and, yes, retirees. If rents are going up around UAFS (I assume anywhere within walking distance of the school) as suggested in an earlier article on City Wire, it suggests there is still a lot of demand for student housing. UAFS could start a bus route -- for example, starting at the campus then west on Grand, south on Greenwood, east on Park or Kinkead and back to campus -- with several stops along the route thereby providing students additional residential options in the Tilles Park area where rents are low. More students living in that area would stabilize the neighborhoods, ...>> Read the entire comment.

"Us" vs. "You"

As a city where we are not allowed to develop (or redevelop) an are, Fort Smith will always be in the Stone Age. I mean, when a piece if land can't be developed because it once held a structure of self-labeled historical significance, we have a problem. Not a current building...but one that got burned down. You can't label everything older than 30 years old a "significant piece of Fort Smith history" and thrive. Second, I'm curious to know what kind "thriving economy and jobs for young people" you have in mind? When I think of a business-friendly environment with a thriving economy and the creation of jobs for college graduates I think of startup businesses providing innovation for a variety of industries (not limited to a single industry) or technologically advanced industries (again, thriving off of a high level of desired innovation). The key is a diversification and a desire for growth. I think the disconnect here is in vision if opportunity and growth. I don't see why there cannot be areas of growth and opportunity for the aging and retired. There should be opportunities for retired and retiring folk. But to expect, and only allow, tunnel vision focus to be on making sure the retired population has a place to live is the same naive mentality which has been holding the city back for 50 years. That thought process is running your kids and grand kids out of town because they are not finding that innovative opportunities and allowable business growth here because of the desire to keep a "small town feel." Sorry, but college graduates are not really interested in bagging the groceries, driving a bus route, giving hospice care, or providing historical "show and tell" services for the retired. You may find someone interested In furthering a career in the hospitality management industry but UAFS has no interest in a properly represented degree in Hospitality management.

Old folks, new business

What do you have against old folks homes, especially affordable ones. Fort Smith has all that you require albeit not as luxurious or top deck as you want. The limitations on development here are a result of property owners holding out for the highest price to be supported by taxpayer subsidized funding. Their property would be worthless otherwise her in Fort Smith. It is time for eminent domain to force change.

Overdue

Change is long overdue in Fort Smith. Glittery pie-in-sky plans are great for promoting tax increases but more mundane and realistic ideas need to be embraced. Pragmatism should guide planning. So what if Fort Smith was to gain a reputation for affordability and safety for the elderly's basic needs. It would still attract outsiders and the money that comes with them, not to mention from their visiting friends and relatives from the outside "real world". Consider the elderly as the loss leaders and economic multipliers. It is right in front of our noses, don't sneeze at it.

Billboards

I don't have a problem with billboards but the BOD needs to look at all the small 2x3 size signs that are everywhere. From reality signs,buying and selling cell phone, cell phone repair, etc. everything else under the sun. These are put next to intersections all over town. People nailed these signs on utility poles all over town and they look so tacky.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere there's signs

Right On, Citizen 1. Blocking out the scenery. Breaking my mind. Maybe they can count towards the tree canopy.