On June 9, at the Virginia Beach Planning Commission meeting, on a vote of 7-2, the Planning Commission voted to recommend to City Council that On-Premises LED signs should be allowed, and a set of regulations and restrictions were adopted in the amendment to the ordinance. The discussion on the LED sign ordinance had advanced out of a City Council appointed 10-member committee on a 6-4 vote. The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce was one of those 10 voting members, and was a leading voice in favor of allowing, yet regulating, LED signs. Those opposed to LED signs, represented by members of the garden clubs and beautification community initially sought an outright ban of all LED signs. In the end though, the opposition worked towards the compromise position that came out of the Planning Commission vote.
One of the biggest users of LED signs today in Virginia Beach is the city itself, with signs at the Convention Center, Sandler Center and numerous schools. Additionally, other organizations, such as non-profits and churches are currently using On-Premises LED signs.
In a surprising vote on June 22, Virginia Beach City Council voted 6-5 for a citywide ban on LED signs. Those who voted for the ban were Barbara Henley, Vice Mayor Louis Jones, Harry Diezel, Mayor Will Sessoms, Rosemary Wilson and Jim Wood. Councilman Glenn Davis, an LED proponent, criticized the council for being anti-business explaining that the businesses that currently have the signs will have an advantage over those who now cannot have them. The Chamber hopes that Council will reconsider this issue.
The Chamber thanks John Wilson, Chair of the Chamber’s Virginia Beach Board, and Vice Chair Tuck Bowie who provided leadership on this legislative issue. Wilson, who served on a 10-member committee appointed by the Mayor to focus on this issue, said, “Our committee recommended that we not ban LED signs, but instead, embrace them with these new regulations to better control how these signs can be used and how the message may be displayed. The Chamber and other organizations in favor of this technology worked diligently with the garden clubs, beautification commission and others opposed to LED signs to foster a compromise position. We agreed that there are some examples of LED signs in use today with scrolling messages, and blinking and flashing lights that are not in favor with the majority of our residents. Thus, we reached a compromise that the message displayed on LED signs should remain static for a period of time, and we prohibit that message from scrolling or containing flashing or blinking lights.”
On a separate, but related issue, allowing the ability to add LED technology to three billboard signs in the City of Virginia Beach has been deferred at this time.