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City approves new billboard ordinance

City Commission members approved a new ordinance on outdoor advertising Monday after months of discussion over whether digital billboards would be an eyesore or a cash cow for the city.

The ordinance effectively overhauled Dickinson’s existing sign code, allowing for both static and digital billboards within city limits — but not without restrictions.

After some last-minute amendments by city attorney Matt Kolling following a recommendation from commission member Gene Jackson, the commission approved the final passage ordinance, which states that billboards can be no larger than 48-by-14 feet, and cannot be placed within 1,000 feet of each other. Digital billboards must be spaced at least 1,500 feet apart.

The ordinance was first introduced in January and went through months of debate and public comment at both the City Commission, and the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Jackson, a member of both, said the “process has been, I don’t know if I should say intense, but it’s certainly been detailed.”

The regulations are intended to protect what Kolling called the “visual quality of Dickinson” as well as property value.

Numerous citizens and commission member Shirley Dukart, who works in real estate, voiced concerns that a billboard will devalue both the property they are placed on and adjacent properties.

Rocky Pletan, who owns property next to Dakota Sew and So on Highway 22, said he was concerned with news that neighbor Holly Martinson had signed a contract with Dakota Outdoor Advertising for a 20-year lease to install a billboard on her property.

Pletan said he believed the signs “are going to compromise other people’s businesses.”

He asked members to consider what business owners might make with a billboard compared to what he stood to lose.

“I just hope whatever you guys do isn’t detrimental to my property,” Pletan said.

The new ordinance is actually “much more restrictive” than the existing one, Mayor Dennis Johnson said.

“If you’re encouraging us to defeat this,” Johnson told Pletan, “then it’s going to be more liberal than what this new one would be.”

Mike Derby, owner of Dakota Outdoor Advertising, argued that there is “no proof or evidence that a billboard on a piece of property devalues the property next door,” but he and fellow outdoor advertising entrepreneur Leo Ness, of Newman Outdoor Advertising, couldn’t push for more lenient regulations.