Albany's prolonged fussing about electronic message signs at schools and the like now seems to be at an end. It seemed to be a lot of anguish over not much.
It started when the booster club at West Albany High School wanted to replace the school's aging sign out front on Queen Avenue with a new one. The new one would have messages that can be changed with a computer keyboard. Turns out, though, that the school is in a residential zone. and signs like that are not allowed.
The city wanted to help. So it proposed an amendment in the development code. But first there had to be an open house. Then there had to be a public hearing before the planning commission. This was followed, in due course, by a public hearing before the city council. The proposal was to allow so-called "changing electronic message signs" for institutions -- such as schools and churches -- that exist in residential zones as conditional uses.
Last month the council balked at some of the provisions. One issue: Should the law allow scrawling or fading transitions in messages? Another: Should owners have to install automated equipment to turn off those signs at night, or should they be allowed to figure out on their own how to comply with the requirement that signs be turned off between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.?
On Wednesday night, this issue was finally laid to rest. Voting 4-3, with the mayor breaking a tie, the council adopted the law change, allowing only static messages, no fading or crawling transitions; and leaving it up to owners how to make sure the signs are off at night.
You can't say the Albany council doesn't take even small issues seriously. But after all this, I wonder if any school club or church will want to go ahead and spend money on a new sign. (hh)