Editorial: Electronic signs may help business
March 24, 2009 · 2:26 PM
Oak Harbor business interests have a point in arguing that the city’s sign code needs to be loosened to allow electronic message boards.
The change, already approved by the planning commission, would allow certain electronic signs along two busy thoroughfares, Highway 20 and Midway Blvd.
Electronic signs conflict with the pastoral image we like tourists to have of Whidbey Island, but let’s face it: Highway 20 and Midway are exceptions to that vision, and businesses in the congested areas need to attract the attention of passing motorists.
Presently, verbal messages must be relayed with hand-posted letters, which is an old technology with drawbacks. It’s difficult and sometimes hazardous to change messages, and the message gets lost in all the background clutter.
If the change is approved, business owners could switch their message with ease, presumably from the comfort of their office. As the chamber of commerce points out, some of the messages would benefit community morale, welcoming home squadrons from abroad or cheering on the high school’s athletic teams.
As supporters foresee it, electronic signs would simply be a technological update of the old reader boards. Size restrictions should remain in place, and regulatory caution taken that the technology doesn’t get out of hand. Oak Harbor does not need TV-style signs with moving pictures to distract the motoring public and cheapen the look of the town.
Tasteful electronic signs limited in size would benefit businesses in these specific areas without drastically changing the look of Oak Harbor. Times are tough economically, and if something as simple as this can help the business community, then the city council should be supportive.