WATERTOWN — City Council members on Monday night informally agreed on establishing a six-month, citywide moratorium on illuminated billboards.
The subject of digital billboards recently came up after the city’s Code Enforcement Office denied a request to allow local businessman Jake Johnson to replace two existing billboards with digital signs on the roof of his building at 104 Court St.
After a lengthy discussion, council members took the recommendation from consultant Lisa Nagle, an expert on zoning, to use the six months to come up with a plan for electronic billboards.
“Take six months,” she said. “Do it right. Think it through.”
City staff had proposed a yearlong moratorium, but council members thought that was too long a period of time and it could be worked out quicker than that.
The billboard legislation will be part of all-encompassing changes in the city’s sign and zoning ordinances.
In denying Mr. Johnson’s sign application, the city’s Codes Enforcement Office decided the billboards would be too much of a distraction to tenants in the Woolworth building across the street and to motorists driving through the area.
Councilman Cody J. Horbacz had hoped that council members could have done something on Monday night about the two existing billboards, but the digital billboards would be nonconforming signs and would need Zoning Board of Appeals approval.
He contended that the light from digital signs would be less bright than the two existing billboards.
But the new sign ordinance could be written in a way that it would take just a building permit to get an electronic billboard approved and not by going through the Planning Board, Ms. Nagle said.
“It’ll be fair for everyone involved,” Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. said.
Mr. Johnson, who attended the meeting, was not available for comment afterward. He walked out of the meeting after council members decided to establish a moratorium.