Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/23/1996 01:45 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL 181 "An Act relating to directional and informational signs, displays, and devices and penalties for violations related to outdoor advertising." 5 BRETT HUBER, STAFF, SENATOR LYDIA GREEN, testified in support of SB 181. He stated that the bill would provide for the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOTPF) a Tourist Oriented Directional Sign (TODS) program in statute and allow the placement of TODS signs on private property outside of the right-of-way. Codifying the program would provide for a well planned and regulated system of directional signing that would preserve the scenic beauty of Alaska's roadways and benefit Alaska's visitors and the business' that serve them. He continued, the Department currently administers TODS as an experimental program. Although, the program is consistent with standards established by the Federal Highway Administration and the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, absence of statute authorizing the program has left the public out of the process of promulgating regulation. By placing TODS in statute, the Legislature will provide firm legal footing for the program to continue. Mr. Huber concluded, passage of SB 181 would provide long sought assistance to Alaska businesses that are dependent on trade with the traveling public. The bill would likewise enhance the state's ability to be user-friendly to it's tourists and promote a responsive visitor industry. SB 181 authorizes a means for providing needed directional information while preserving the unique beauty of Alaska's roadways. He urged the Committee's support. Representative Brown referenced Page 3, Section 4, asking who would make the determination in the unzoned areas whether they would be zoned commercial or industrial. Mr. Huber replied that a specific definition does not exist at this time. Zoning would become representative by the use pattern of that area. Representative Brown pointed out that the bill covers space "outside" the right-of-way. She asked if the signs outside the right-of-way had to be consistent with federal highway standards. He replied that they would, noting that the concern would not come under the guidelines for highway right-of-way control but would be included under the outdoor advertising control regulations. Representative Brown asked the need to include private property "monitoring" in the legislation. Mr. Huber explained that congestion could exist on the right-of-way or that a business site could border the highway. In response to Representative Brown's query, Mr. Huber indicated it was the intention of the Department to approve the specific location on private property as well as on state lands. 6 Signage limitations exist in the program. SAM KITO III, SPECIAL ASSISTANT, OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND PUBLIC FACILITIES (DOT&PF), stated he did not know how many signs each business could have. He understood that the legislation would provide for new regulations to be drafted to address varying situations -- inside and outside the right-of-way. Representative Brown asked what the Department intended to do to prevent a proliferation of signs. Mr. Huber responded that it was the sponsors intent to provide the necessary latitude to the Department to establish the regulations. Representative Brown inquired if the legislation would work in cooperation with local ordinances and zoning. Mr. Huber replied that it was the intent of the legislation that it not be more restrictive than provisions contained in AS 19. The municipalities would have the ability to enact ordinances which were more restrictive if need be. Representative Brown disagreed with Section #5 of the legislation which would lower the penalty from a misdemeanor to a violation. Mr. Huber suggested that a misdemeanor violation would not make the best use of jail time or legislative funding. Although, Mr. Kito advised that reducing the penalty would limit the Department's ability to enforce illegal signs placed in the right-of-way. He thought passage of the legislation would hamper the Departments ability to implement it. Representative Brown questioned if Section #5 would cover political signs. Mr. Kito understood that separate restrictions exists addressing political advertising. He added that political signage would be expressly prohibited in the right-of-way. Representative Brown proposed that the Legislature would have a conflict of interest in lowering the penalty. Representative Therriault referenced Page 3, Section 4, and the use of "shall" in relationship regarding the location of sign placement. Mr. Huber responded that the Department will establish criteria to be met in order that the application be approved. Representative Brown referenced the language on Lines 20-21, Page 3, questioning how the Department would adopt regulations which affect the "scenic" qualities of an area. Mr. Huber stated that language had been added in the Senate Finance Committee to address if whether the legislation would remove current use of road travel. The Department can use the quality of the scenery which exists in an area to 7 allow or disallow signage. Representative Mulder commented on an earlier discussion regarding penalty, misdemeanor versus a violation charge. He suggested that it was easier to file a violation than to take a person to court. He continued, voicing concern with the number of signs being applied for and posted. Mr. Kito pointed out that existing TODS policy restricts intersection posting to a maximum of four, with a size of 90" x 18". Representative Mulder asked the criteria used to distinguish between the applicants and the eligible positions. Mr. Kito stated that it would be first come, first served. Mr. Huber corrected, reading from the TODS policy guideline manual, ".....not more than three signs should be installed on any sign panel and not more than two sign panels could be installed at any intersection". Representative Kohring noted support for the legislation. He stated that it would be an enhancement to the tourism industry, although, suggested that the fiscal note was too high. Mr. Kito explained the components of the fiscal note which would allocate $10 thousand dollars to establish the regulations, the remainder would cover the departmental costs to adequately maintain the system. Discussion followed regarding the fiscal note. Representative Mulder referenced Page 3, Line 7. He thought that including "shall" would suggest that there could be an inherent conflict and lawsuit through exclusion of vendors who want to have a sign. He MOVED changing "shall" to "may". Mr. Huber stated that changing "shall" to "may" would be permissive language in determining if the Department instituted the program. Representative Mulder pointed out that the TODS program had already been initiated. Mr. Kito explained that a pilot program is in place. He stressed that regulations have not been established to formalized that program policy. With the changed language, Line 6 has already established a "tourist oriented directional sign program". (Tape Change, HFC 96-133, Side 1). Representative Therriault suggested changing the language would make the entire program discretionary. Mr. Huber added, changing "shall" to "may" would include the direction outside of the right-of-way. It is the sponsor's intent that the area outside of the right-of-way be included. Representative Mulder MOVED to WITHDRAW the MOTION to change the language. There being NO OBJECTION, it was withdrawn. Representative Martin MOVED to report CS SS SB 181 (FIN) out 8 of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. CS SS SB 181 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with "no recommendations" and with a fiscal note by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.