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Legislative Updates

Oh say can you see, by the sign’s constant light?

February 13, 2021

Well, this is a pretty event-filled weekend, what with it being President’s Day weekend, but also wedged in there are Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year.  And now we have a new version of one of the billboard bills to contend with as well.


Friday late morning, the hard-fought-over billboard bill, SB61, was substituted on the Senate floor for the 2nd Substitute.  Here are the changes to the 1st substitute bill to read for yourself.  The League has launched a full-out assault on the bill as it now stands (and on the earlier versions too, for that matter), asking cities and towns to weigh in on the issues this would cause in their communities, so these can by conveyed to their Senators.  Here’s some of the stuff from the League’s alert:


Under SB 61 2nd Sub., if a municipal zoning ordinance allows digital “on-premise” signs (e.g. a sign over the entrance of a store), the municipality must also allow existing “off-premise” signs (e.g. billboards) to convert to digital. The Utah League of Cities and Towns has met with representatives from the outdoor advertising industry and with Sen. Sandall several times. Members of the Senate Business and Labor Committee voted to pass SB 61 1st Sub. but requested that parties continue to work on local control and mitigation concerns. The 2nd substitute reflects some consensus but has not addressed remaining concerns with preempting zoning authority of cities and counties inequity among sign sizes.

The bill preempts local zoning around signage and creates more inequity among signs. For example, Utah City’s zoning ordinance allows an on-premise small digital sign over the business entrance of Senator’s Snack Stop and the sign may not exceed 10 square feet. The outdoor advertising industry argues that because Senator’s Snack Stop has a digital sign, then any billboard in the same zone, regardless of size, should be able to upgrade to a digital sign.

  1. ULCT argues it is inequitable that Senator’s Snack Stop’s small digital sign should automatically allow a large billboard to upgrade to a digital sign.
  2. ULCT also believes that had the city council known that Senator’s Snack Stop’s digital sign would trigger an automatic digital upgrade for a large billboard, the city council may have zoned differently.
  3. The current version of the bill would be retroactive to January 1, 2021, preempting local elected officials’ ability to make decisions about their sign ordinances.

ULCT acknowledges the industry’s concern that some on-premise signs are much larger than the Senator’s Snack Stop sign.

ULCT successfully negotiated the following amendments in the 2nd substitute:

  • Corrected language in the original bill that would allow a billboard to convert to digital even if no other digital signs were permitted within the same zone
  • Curfew:
    • Amended the zones eligible for a digital curfew from exclusively residential to primarily residential
    • Increased the location of a sign to an eligible curfew residence from 150 ft. to 300 ft.
    • Inserted language allowing a municipality to either require a curfew (midnight to 6 am) or dimming technology for a residence in a curfew location
  • The substitute also includes language that allows a municipality to prevent a billboard located on property in any area zoned exclusively residential on January 1, 2021 as exclusively residential from upgrading to a digital billboard.


My assessment of this bill is that it still has a lot of problems that really can’t be fixed, it just intrudes too much on local land use authority and creates such a disparate privelege for one type of use.


This bill is number 5 on the Senate floor second reading calendar, but it is circled.  Still, it could come up for a vote there very soon once the session  resumes on Tuesday.


Here’s an interesting story related to the billboard bills in the St. George Spectrum



Also, a new bill out on Friday, establishes a new (or really just re-establishes) a state Main Street program.  Take a look, SB194 – Utah Main Street Program


Also, two bills are up for hearing on Tuesday (Monday is Presidents Day, legislature is closed) – HB23 – Voter Referendum Amendments at 8:00 am, and SB130 – Regulation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations at 2:00 pm.


And still no Land Use Task Force bill – sigh.



Wilf Sommerkorn

Co-Chair, APA Utah Legislative Committee


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