City of Helena to Rewrite Sign Ordinance, Seeks Community Guidance
October 24, 2023
Image credit: Steven Cordes, Unsplash

The City of Helena, MT is actively seeking public input on a proposed revision to its sign ordinance that will see a gradual removal of all billboards over the next decade. Residents and businesses are being encouraged to share their opinions and insights on the proposed sign regulations to ensure that the city’s rules align with the needs of the community.

The proposed rewrite of the sign code aims to bring it in line with recent legal rulings, specifically referencing cases such as Reed v Town of Gilbert and City of Austin v Reagan National Advertising. This process invites public participation, allowing individuals to have a say in how signage is regulated within the city.

“Helena’s new sign code proposal is a commitment to policies that work for the community’s benefit. Scenic America endorses the city’s consideration of scenic beauty over scenic blight,” said Scenic America President Mark Falzone. “The fact that the city is actively seeking input from the community is very encouraging, as this process is crucial to crafting a sign code that best serves the needs and aspirations of the community itself and is not influenced by outside interests. That said, we would be happy to provide our input and assistance as they work towards these encouraging legislative changes.”

The new sign code, as envisioned by city officials, is focused on shaping the future of Helena. Its objectives include enhancing the city’s aesthetics, promoting safety, reducing visual blight and clutter, and supporting responsible advertising practices.

This proposal centers on three key goals:

  1. Alignment with Legal Rulings: The revised code seeks to harmonize with recent legal decisions, ensuring that it complies with the law.
  2. Improved Clarity By clarifying signage regulations, the city aims to make it easier for businesses and residents to understand and comply with the rules.
  3. Meeting Community Needs: The proposed changes are designed to address the evolving requirements of the community. The code not only seeks to support local businesses but also to enhance the visual appeal of Helena’s streets.

The proposed changes encompass various aspects of signage regulation, including:

  • Off-Premises Signage, Including Billboards: One significant change involves the gradual elimination of billboards over a 10-year period. This decision takes into consideration the economic significance of billboards while addressing concerns about their impact on the city’s appearance.
  • On-Building Signage: The proposal aims to right-size on-building signs, ensuring that all businesses can effectively communicate through their signage. By setting appropriate standards, the city seeks to prevent any single sign from overpowering others, reducing visual clutter.
  • Digital Signage: The city welcomes feedback on digital signage. While businesses may wish to display rotating messages, the proposal seeks to strike a balance between technological features and preserving the city’s ambiance.
  • Lighting Standards: The proposed sign code establishes lighting standards to maintain visibility and aesthetics while minimizing light pollution and glare. This ensures that illuminated signs effectively serve their purpose while not disrupting the peaceful enjoyment of public spaces.

Residents and stakeholders are encouraged to join the discussion, provide their feedback, and actively participate in this process before the proposal goes to the Zoning Commission for consideration. Community input is vital to shaping a sign code that aligns with the city’s vision and goals, and citizen engagement will be crucial to ensuring that the city’s sign regulations meet community expectations.

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