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Rapid City voters could know as soon as today whether they hold the fate of the community's digital billboards in their hands.

Scenic Rapid City, a coalition of local business owners and residents opposed to billboard proliferation, turned in more than 3,000 signatures Monday on each of two petitions to get two initiated measures on billboards on the June 7 ballot.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, the city had yet to complete its review of the petitions to determine whether enough of the signatures were valid, but City Finance Officer Pauline Sumption said she anticipated it would be done sometime today.

Supporters of the measures had to collect signatures from at least 2,100 voters, or 5 percent of those registered in the city, on petitions to trigger a citywide vote.

"We know we have over 3,000 signatures," said Lisa Modrick, president of Scenic Rapid City. "Now, it's in the hands of the city."

The first petition would ban new digital billboards, double the required distance between new and existing billboards to 2,000 feet and fix the maximum size at 250 square feet.

The second would establish a 20-year expiration date on sign credits, the city's currency for new billboards. City ordinance now grants one sign credit for every billboard taken down and requires two sign credits to be surrendered for every new billboard that goes up.

Assuming enough signatures were gathered, the Rapid City Council will make a decision Monday on when to schedule the vote, City Attorney Jason Green said. The council has two choices - the June 7 ballot or a special election at least 30 days from now.

"I would suspect they would select the next municipal election to avoid the expense of a special election," Green said.

Representatives of the city's major billboard companies reiterated their opposition Monday.

Doug Rumpca, general manager of Lamar Advertising in Rapid City, said the company looks forward to campaigning against the initiatives. By his estimate, 80 percent to 90 percent of its advertising business in South Dakota comes from in-state clients, and nationwide, Lamar has donated thousands of dollars a year to public service organizations and worked with the Amber Alert System and America's Most Wanted.

"We believe that we are providing a very valuable service to the local community and hope to be able to help our local businesses continue to grow and prosper in the future," Rumpca said in a prepared statement. "Billboards are not only helpful tools for local consumers but they are extremely important to keep tourism as the second leading business in the state of SD."

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But supporters of Scenic Rapid City, who collected all of the signatures in three weeks, said the response they received from the community speaks for itself.

"We want to see the Black Hills and not the billboards," said Mike Quasney, a member of Scenic Rapid City. "They have had their way for a long time. This is the people speaking now. This is the people wanting certain guidelines to be followed."

"We've been called billboard haters. We're more Rapid City lovers," said Pat Roseland, the group's historian. "We want it to grow and prosper in a beautiful way."

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

 

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