(From For the Record, Wednesday, December 6, 1995): Idaho Deputy Attorney General Bill Von Tagen says his office fought a Spokane billboard company’s successful effort to erect eight billboards along Interstate 90. A Nov. 23 article reported otherwise.
Pleasant View is still there - behind the nine billboards.
This week, billboard companies began erecting five support towers on a spit of land alongside the Centennial Trail. Upon entering Idaho, motorists on Interstate 90 will pass the signs at a rate of one every 13 seconds.
Critics say the new billboards obscure the forest, Spokane River and rolling fields that gave the community of Pleasant View its name. The row of double-sided signs is roughly 50 yards from the Centennial Trail, popular with joggers, bikers and walkers.
“I was wondering what in God’s name they were doing,” said John Bentley, who lives nearby. “I was hoping upon hope no one would be so callous and tacky to stack five of those up in a row. So many of the people who immigrated to this state wanted to leave that.”
“I think it’s a monstrosity,” said Buell Hollister, who lives at nearby Hauser Lake. “Everyone’s out there to get that consumer dollar, aren’t they?”
Eight of the billboards are being built by Obie Media Corp., headquartered in Eugene, Ore.
The first two signs, advertising Post Falls’ Factory Outlet Mall, were hoisted into place Wednesday.
“The factory outlets are just thrilled,” said Obie regional manager Peter Grover, in Spokane. “They’re going to be on all the faces heading toward Coeur d’Alene. That will drive some traffic into Post Falls.”
The company’s four east-facing billboards will be rented to Spokane companies, he said.
“The people in Spokane that we talked to were just ecstatic,” he said. “You can’t build signs that size or type in Washington.”
Each day, Grover said, roughly 60,000 vehicles travel each way on the freeway. For that kind of exposure, advertisers will pay $1,500 to $2,000 per month, per billboard.
Post Falls’ Young Electric Sign Co. is erecting the ninth billboard on land owned by the Jacklin Seed Co. Efforts to reach Jacklin officials were unsuccessful.
It took three years for Obie to get state and Kootenai County approval for its signs.
The land, which has a gravel pit on it, is owned by Spokane mining company N.A. Degerstrom, Inc. and was zoned for mining.
But billboards are only allowed on land zoned “light industrial,” said Larry Collier, associate county planner. The Kootenai County commissioners rezoned the property in January. They insisted the billboard towers be farther than 50 feet from the trail, and 700 feet apart.
“We had excellent cooperation from the county in getting this through,” said Grover.
Enter the Idaho Transportation Department, which must approve billboards within 600 feet of state highways, as these are.
The county can’t change a zone just so someone can put up billboards, the department said. There must be some sort of light industrial use of the land.
So the billboards sat in bureaucratic limbo.
“It’s been an ongoing soap opera,” sighed Collier.
But two weeks ago, he said, the state Attorney General’s Office called. Since Jacklin parks its truck trailers on Degerstrom’s land, the AG’s office reasoned, that constitutes an industrial use. The rezone was OK’d, and workers quickly began building the towers for the 14-foot by 48-foot billboards.
“I like the clear spaces, but it’s their property, and they are within their rights,” said Collier. He said the company is considering another billboard tower near the bridge over the Spokane River.
Over at the factory outlet mall, marketing director Kay Riplinger said her tenants are delighted to have the opportunity to advertise their brand names.
“We think it will be great for business,” she said. “It’s going to help everyone in the long run.”
Post Falls environmental attorney Marc McGregor is skeptical.
“Does it really add to the outlet malls?” he said. “You see them there anyway.”
“Sometimes we as homo sapiens don’t do real well on self-regulation,” said Bentley. “Obviously we have to have some rules.”
Grover and Riplinger said they’ve heard no criticism of the billboards. Neither had the county planning or parks and recreation departments.
“Normally, the complaints come from a small group of people,” Grover said. “That property could have been developed into a big industrial building. Now it’s just four poles.”
Post Falls officials said they’d fielded a few calls from people curious about what the towers were.
Grover said the company hopes to hang all eight of its billboards within a week or so.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo