To the editor:
Since it first began publication, The Deseret News has taken pride in the integrity of informed editorial opinion and likewise the writer has taken comfort in the knowledge that the information and editorial opinion is generally accurate and dependable.There is an area, however, in which I question the accuracy and objectivity of the News. This area is glaring to me because it is my area: signs.
Your editorial of Feb. 18, titled "Beef up the flawed billboard law," is almost a carbon copy of the misinformation and irrational approach to billboard control that is distributed by "Scenic America" and other anti-billboard organizations.
As in any industry or organization, there are those who will take advantage of a situation, but contrary to your statement that the Highway Beautification Act "has been mostly a failure," the original purpose of the law has been well met.
Literally thousands of billboards have been removed and zoning and placement controls have kept new structures in areas specifically designated for outdoor advertising while at the same time protecting thousands and thousands of miles of highway from any kind of commercial intrusion. There are thousands of miles of new highway and far fewer billboards per mile than ever before.
It should not be surprising that in the 12-month period between 1989 and 1990, only 226 non-conforming billboards were removed. Most of the structures have been removed long since and the relatively few non-conforming structures that are left could have been removed if the control agencies had followed procedures as the laws call for.
The size limits of outdoor advertising structures were in fact set by joint agreement between the outdoor advertising industry and the federal government.
Some of the original proposals were simply not realistic. Since panels were required to be further away from travel lanes, letter sizes had to be larger to be easily read. Court decisions helped to establish readability standards for safety as well as comprehension.
Legitimate outdoor advertising companies and the state of Utah have worked well together, and we sincerely believe the program to be effective. Most of the abuses (and there are a few) come as a result of misunderstanding and not intentional disregard of requirements.
The term "visual pollution," which is a favorite of the anti-billboard groups, is not only offensive but also is inaccurate. Many companies depend heavily on the information provided by outdoor advertising. As a matter of real fact, many businesses would not even exist without the ability to notify the traveling public of their locations, goods and services. Many such services are not just desirable but essential.
Please be objective. Control, yes. Elimination, no. We will continue to support realistic, well-considered programs that allow for placement of outdoor advertising and will continue to oppose unrealistic, ill-considered programs that fail to recognize the value of our product.
Kirk L. Brimley
YESCO special services manager
President, Utah Business Advertising Association