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Rapid City has shot down a request from Lamar Advertising to put up 12 new digital billboards and one static billboard within city limits.

The city's action comes less than two months before voters decide whether to ban digital billboards and further control other off-premise signs in the community. City staffers said Lamar could still appeal the decision to the Sign Code Board of Appeals or Zoning Board of Adjustment before the June 7 election.

The digital signs requested by Lamar would replace existing static signs scattered throughout town, including four on West Main Street, two on Mount Rushmore Road and two either off Haines Avenue or Fifth Street. The new static sign was proposed for S.D. Highway 44.

The total value of the requested signs is more than $1 million, according to the applications.

But city staff denied the sign building permit applications submitted April 4 for a number of reasons, including a requirement in all cases that new or modified billboards receive a conditional use permit from the Planning Commission, city building official Brad Solon said. Some requests also violated city sign code regulations on maximum height and spacing, items that could be granted variances by the Sign Code Board of Appeals.

An appeal to that body would have to be made within 30 days, Solon said. A challenge to the requirement for conditional use permits could be made to the Zoning Board of Adjustment within the next 30 days.

Terry Olson, lease manager for Lamar Advertising in Rapid City, declined to comment for this story Thursday.

But Jim Petersen, chairman of Scenic Rapid City, the local group that collected more than 4,000 signatures to get the two billboard initiated measures on the ballot, said Lamar's actions were exactly why the group has asked the Rapid City Council on multiple occasions to enact a moratorium on new billboards until the election.

"We don't want any more billboards, let alone 13 new ones," Petersen said.

The current debate on billboards was ignited about a year ago by a similar request by Lamar, which is one of the city's two major billboard providers. Then, the company tried to convert an oversized static billboard near Wilson Park to a digital sign, a request that was denied by the Sign Code Board of Appeals and city council amid hearty criticism of the proposal from nearby residents and business owners.

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Mayor Alan Hanks said Thursday that he was disappointed Lamar told the city council that there was no need for a moratorium.

"Now, all of a sudden, we have a rush to convert numerous boards around town from static to digital, creating more visual clutter," Hanks said. "We're right back to the beginning."

Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or emilie.rusch@rapidcityjournal.com

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect a correction. Appeals can be made to the Sign Code Board of Appeals within 30 days of the city's decision.)

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