CONWAY — If you hear someone call some Conway City Council members nitpickers, correct them.
They aren’t nitpickers. They are nit-lookers.
Some on the Council want to see nits in action before they finalize a proposed electronic message sign ordinance that possibly will be offered for a public hearing next month.
A nit is the measure of the illumination power of a light-emitting diode (or LED) and Council members want to see if they agree with the Conway Planning Commission, which recommended the signs be allowed to broadcast up to 7,500 nits in daylight hours, as opposed to the 5,000 nits the Council had in the version Commission members overhauled.
If the Council sides with the Commission on nit power, it could be the only planning board recommendation that finds its way to the public hearing.
“To me, they’ve taken out the heart of the compromise,” Conway Mayor Alys Lawson said to open a workshop discussion Monday night on the Planning Commission’s recommendations for the ordinance.
Lawson explained that City Council members worked hard to coalesce opinions of a group opposed to the signs and those of business people who want them.
Lawson described the Planning Commission’s recommended changes as “so far away from what the Council has worked and worked and worked to reach a compromise.”
On the other hand, Councilman William Goldfinch said, there also is a group of people who feel the Council’s compromise was too restrictive, and the loosening of proposed regulations recommended by the Planning Commission reflected that view.
The Planning Commission not only recommended an increase in the daytime nit-power of the signs, but it also said the signs could be as large as business owners wanted, that the lights from the signs could be multi-colored rather than just amber and that they could display videos as well as letters and numbers.
Goldfinch said he was willing to accept some of the Council’s original limitations on the signs, but he felt strongly that multi-colored lights should be allowed.
But Councilman Tom Anderson was the only even temperate supporter of Goldfinch’s view.
“I stand by the saying that less government is better government,” Anderson said. “But we do need some rules.”
Exactly, said other Council members, who ultimately sided with Lawson’s view that the initial ordinance should be conservatively written. Then as residents got accustomed to the signs and Council members could better judge what effect they would have on the town and traffic, they may be loosened.
Loosening them in the future, Lawson said, would be a lot easier than finding they had been too liberally written in the first place and trying to tighten them.
Councilwoman Jean Timbes suggested that maybe the Council and Planning Commission should have a joint meeting on the proposed ordinance so that each side could understand the other’s reasoning.
Councilwoman Barbara Blain-Olds agreed that a joint meeting could be productive, but Councilman Irby Koon said the Planning Commission might see it as Council was trying to dictate what the appointed board should do.
The City Council doesn’t have an obligation to follow Planning Commission recommendations, he said, and in fact Council members are elected to do what they feel necessary to protect the well-being of the majority of residents.
Councilman Larry White said he agreed with Lawson in that the Council’s original proposals are the ones he’s more comfortable with.
But as Anderson noted, electronic message signs are the future. Indeed, Myrtle Beach is also grappling with an electronic message sign ordinance and has sent an original proposal back to committee for more consideration.
Other Council members agreed with Anderson about nits.
“I want to see a nit,” Anderson told planning director Michael Leinwand.
Leinwand said he knows of a company with a van equipped to demonstrate what the message signs will look like, including the ability to project different nit-powers.
He will arrange a viewing, he said.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.