by Pete Didisheim, Advocacy Director
Senator Collins, Representative Cebra, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation. My name is Pete Didisheim, I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I appreciate this opportunity to testify in opposition to LD 1405.
This bill would dramatically increase the allowed size, height, width, and locations of “on-premises” signs, in a fashion that would undermine our billboard ban and greatly increase the clutter of signage along Maine’s roads.
LD 1405 amends Maine law to decrease the protection of scenic resources by stating that only “off premises signs” are “detrimental to the preservation of scenic resources.” Signs located “on-premises” are thus deemed to not have any impact on scenic resources.
The bill significantly broadens allowable locations for “on premises” signs, increases distance that signs can be located from principle structures or points of interest (using a broadened definition), allows signs to be closer to roads, and dramatically increases the allowable size, height, length, and width of signs for food, fuel, or lodging along Interstates. More approach signs would be allowed and could be located on any land contiguous to the business, and the bill loosens limits on changeable display electronic signs.
There is no way to assess LD 1405 other than it would result in a proliferation of bigger and more obtrusive signs in Maine, in more places, in a fashion that would chip away at Maine’s billboard ban. The news signage would harm Maine’s natural landscape and the character of our communities.
Do we really not have enough signage in Maine? In the one mile stretch of Western Avenue here in Augusta, from I-95 to the rotary, I counted 65 on-premises signs. This bill could result in even more signs, spurred by a sign war among merchants, seeking bigger signs and more electronic display signs. Our streets would start to look more like arcades, and less like Maine.
LD 1405 would make the driving experience in Maine seem like other states, where billboards and roadside advertising are out-of-control. In Maine, we have struck a good balance between protection of scenic resources and allowance for prudent on-premise advertising. This bill would upset that balance. New signs would pop up above the trees along the interstate, state highways, and state roads, at gateway approaches to our communities, and all across the state.
For these reasons, we urge that you vote Ought Not to Pass on LD 1405. I appreciate this opportunity to testify and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.