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Leaders look at improving regulation of electronic message boards in town

A unanimous vote by the Jonesborough Planning Commission on changes regarding electronic message boards will likely change before month’s end.
Members approved the changes on first reading, with a caveat that a presentation next month could lead them to ultimately recommend something entirely different to the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
At their Sept. 18 meeting, members discussed reducing the allowed distance between electronic message boards from 500 feet to 200 feet.
They also approved upping the minimum length of time a message is displayed from 4 seconds to 6 seconds. In addition, it was recommended each message be required to be complete.
In other words, a message could not be divided into two consecutive screens.
Those suggestions are what triggered Tom Foster, a member of the governing board and owner of Foster Signs, to ask he be allowed to make a presentation next month for the Planning Commission regarding electronic message boards.
“Not every time do you get everything you want people to see on one screen,” Foster said. “If it’s six seconds (until the next screen comes up), that’s like sitting there watching paint dry.”
Foster argued a shorter time frame and requirement of a complete message on one screen do not necessarily increase the level of distraction. In fact, he argued the opposite could be true.
“Some things will read better than that and are up for less (time) than that,” he said.
Members of the Planning Commission said many of those utilizing electronic message boards already are not adhering to the 4-second rule.
A stricter enforcement of the rule, regardless of the number of seconds decided upon, was addressed.
According to the proposed changes, the town would take the time to enforce the regulations, requiring someone from each business with an electronic board to sign a certification indicating an understanding of the rules and the consequence of being cited into court for violating them.
Foster was in full support of that part of the plan, even recommending people be required to take a class before getting an electronic message center approved.
Foster will give his presentation on electronic message boards at the Planning Commission meeting later this month.
Members of the BMA will be invited to view the presentation as well.