Lagoon's request for sign lights up Farmington debate

Jun 24 2012 - 11:20pm

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FARMINGTON -- A request from Lagoon to put a 3-foot-by-4-foot electronic sign in front of its annex building on the corner of Main Street and Park Lane has stirred debate over electronic signs in this community.

City leaders wrestled with the request during a recent work session and were split on a decision.

The sign would be mounted in a monument sign setup, not on a billboard, and would replace an existing Lagoon sign.

The request comes as the planning commission and city council continue discussions on new regulations for electronic signs. The issue of converting regular billboards into electronic billboards also has been ongoing at the state level.

Besides the issue of regulating electronic signs, there is some concern the request could impact Main Street, which some consider sacrosanct because of its sycamore trees and lack of retail establishments and signs.

Councilman John Bilton worries that granting Lagoon's request will open a door city leaders may never be able to close.

"If it were just Lagoon, OK, fine, let that maybe happen," he said.

"If you're going to get other applications, now I'm very uncomfortable. That makes me inclined to say, 'Sorry.' ... It's Pandora's box open right now, and we need to close it."

City Manager Dave Millheim counseled city officials to delay any decision on the Lagoon request until new sign regulations are in place.

He said signs can be controlled through new community standards, which also limit some signs to specific zones of the city.

Millheim worries about the potential impact of any sign on Main Street.

"I don't think this is about Lagoon. It's bummer timing. The bigger issue is, we've got this jewel called Main Street, and we've gone to great lengths with historical preservation," he said.

"All of a sudden, Main Street takes a different character once you start letting the signature in that area do something else. How do you get it back?"

Leaders also worry about the potential impact that saying no would have on what they describe as an improved relationship with amusement park officials.

Mayor Scott Harbertson is one of them.

"Lagoon has done a lot for the city, but I also don't want them, because they have the money and the ability to do things for the city, to ... influence any major decisions in our city," he said.

Councilman Jim Talbot downplayed some of the drama in the debate, saying Lagoon was asking only for a 3-foot-by-4-foot sign.

He said he would much rather see that particular intersection, which is in a business park zone, cleaned up.

"That is a major intersection," Talbot said. "It's not Mayberry."

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