Council split over regulating downtown advertising wraps

Members of the Las Vegas City Council remain divided over how to regulate building-sized advertising wraps downtown.

On Tuesday, the council’s recommending committee voted 2-1 in favor of a bill that would set size and use restrictions on the wraps, but only after shortening the amount of time a sign permit would cover from three years to one.

The change, proposed by Councilman Bob Coffin and backed by Councilman Bob Beers, was opposed by Councilman Steve Ross, the bill sponsor, who was in the gallery for the meeting.

Coffin and Beers weren’t swayed by testimony from Ross, billboard companies and casino lobbyists who said the proposed ordinance was a result of a hard-fought compromise.

Beers said after the meeting that members of the public at large, not just billboard and casino companies, should have a chance to weigh in on the subject.

“They were the stakeholders who were not part of the stakeholders meeting,” Beers said.

Coffin said he supported the major elements of the regulatory bill, such as limiting such signs to buildings no shorter than nine stories, requiring wraps to be no lower than 15 feet from the ground and a plethora of other conditions.

Besides size and placement rules, the wraps could be used only to advertise on-premises attractions, a limitation aimed at ensuring the signs are used to advertise the casinos on which they are wrapped as opposed to turning the downtown skyline into billboards for consumer products.

Coffin questioned the wisdom of making permits for such signs valid for three years. Coffin, who said he lives 162 feet from Las Vegas Boulevard, worried it would mean that if an objectionable wrap made it through the permit process, residents would have to look at it for three years before the council could have another chance to weigh in.

Although Terry Murphy, a lobbyist for the D Las Vegas, a downtown hotel-casino, said companies with buildings that could support such signs have agreed to keep the content tasteful, Coffin feared the economic incentive that has led to racy advertising on the Strip could lead to objectionable imagery in larger-than-life form on downtown building facades.

“Everybody on the Strip is getting into the t-and-a business,” Coffin said. “I have no doubt there is a race to the bottom on that, pardon the pun.”

Both Beers and Coffin acknowledged the council’s authority is limited when it comes to regulating content of wrap signs.

But they each said annual permit reviews would make it easier to keep controversial content off buildings, even if the council couldn’t overtly rule against a permit over specific content concerns.

Ross, who sponsored the bill, said he will continue pushing for a three-year time limit on permits.

The ordinance is scheduled to go before the City Council on May 1. Building-sized signs are in place on the D and the former Lady Luck, which is under renovation and is expected to open this year under the name Downtown Grand.

The D sign was approved through a temporary permit and will eventually need approval under a master sign plan to remain, said city spokeswoman Diana Paul.

The Downtown Grand signs were approved under a variance, so they won’t need another approval unless the owners want to change them, she said.

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