Local resident and businessman Doug Parker again requested that the Planning and Zoning Commission approve his request for a digital billboard, or as I understood it, a LED message board.
Parker requested that it be placed on his property that is located on the southeast corner of Rockhill Road and U.S. Highway 75 (Central Expressway). Parker's request for the digital billboard was denied by P&Z in late 2011. The request was to then go before City Council, but was withdrawn by the applicant before it came up on the Council agenda.
This time Parker reduced the size of the billboard, but the application called for the finished product to be 90 feet larger than the current sign ordinance allows. The application also didn't meet the required minimum required distance of 300 feet from the edge of the sign to adjacent buildings - in this case Honda of McKinney.
City staff recommended that P&Z deny the applicants request because it would not contribute to the attractiveness of the Hwy. 75 corridor. Staff also stated concerns that approving the request would open the door for other business owners to install similar signage.
Parker's attorney, Ken Paxton, argued that the area along Hwy. 75 is not part of historic district and the billboard could be used to advertise downtown businesses and community events. Paxton told members of P&Z that the applicant had submitted safety studies which point out that no increase in traffic accidents due to digital signage has been documented.
Admittedly, city planners are currently working to revamp the city's sign ordinance which has been existence since the 1960's, so perhaps it is time to get in the 21st Century and allow digital billboards and such as P&Z members Matt Hilton and David Kochalka alluded, both saying that they didn't see the digital billboard as any more of a safety issue than other signs or "distractions" that they see in and around the city.
While the Daktronics, (the manufacturer of the billboard) representative told P&Z that there are no statistics that show an increase in accidents due to these types of billboards being a distraction, the citizens who were in attendance were not buying it. Most McKinney residents who attended last night's meeting opposed the billboard because they feel it does have the potential to be a dangerous distraction and it, in their opinions, will not be an esthetically pleasing addition to our city.
Parker himself spoke to P&Z telling them of his plight. The problem is that Parker bought a piece of property that he is unable to develop and there is little that he can do to change that. The city won't permit a curb cut into the property, citing that it is located too close to the intersection. So, throwing up a billboard, which has the potential to generate income for Mr. Parker, seems like a solution, particularly when presented with the enticement of free advertising for city events.
To me, (and perhaps only me) the reality of this situation is that Mr. Parker has purchased a piece of property that he is unable to use to generate income. I'm never one to begrudge anyone the opportunity to produce revenue, but in this case, I support the decision of P&Z to just say no. This scenario shouldn't be about the needs of one person, but should be about what is in the best interest of the city as a whole. Is it in the best interest for the city to set a precedent for that type of signage to be present up and down Central Expressway? I believe that our Council has a vision in place for our city and, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that a main highway strewn with LED signs and billboards is part of that vision.
I know, I know - this entire conversation has the potential to come back to the rights of individual property owners, but really? Just remember that sometimes we have to be careful of what we ask for. If we did away with all the city ordinances, etc. would you be happy with a McKinney that has hundreds of flashing signs of all shapes, sizes and intensities, not only lining our major roadways, but taking over our historic downtown area?
So good for you P&Z, for sticking to your current guidelines. In some cases, maybe it is just as good to stay in the 20th century, to preserve that which we, as McKinney residents, all value - the quality of life. I'm just saying.