Putting the "garden" back in Garden City is one of the objectives of leaders of the small sliver of a city along the Boise River between Boise and Eagle.
To that end, they're working to reduce and prevent visual clutter from billboards and signs, particularly on high-profile gateways.
That's why three of four City Council members opposed a proposal for a 20-to-25-foot tall billboard at 110 W. 41st Street south of Curtis and Chinden roads. Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians dropping off the Bench as they travel north down Curtis enjoy a scenic view of the city and Foothills.
"This goes totally against the grain of everything we've been working for the last seven years," Garden City Councilwoman Pam Beaumont said just before the council rejected the proposed billboard 3-1. Councilman Mike Moser voted to approve the billboard.
Larry Alder of Lamar Outdoor Advertising told the Statesman that he doesn't understand why the council would go against the recommendation of its own planning and zoning commission, which found the structure suitable for the proposed location.
"If there were 500 citizens up in arms about that billboard going up, then I'd understand," Alder said.
Lamar is proposing to relocate a billboard at 8633 W. State St. to West 41st Street, though it would actually be a more modern billboard. Like Boise and other Treasure Valley cities, Garden City has an ordinance prohibiting the construction of new billboards, but companies with existing billboards may submit applications to move structures or tear down an old billboard and build a new one at another location.
Boise has had a ban on new billboards since the 1980s, an official from development services said. The city has about 100, though some of those are actually "credits" to build future billboards to replace ones that have been removed.
A tally of Garden City's inventory of billboards wasn't immediately available, but Lamar alone has 11 in the city.
GETTING RID OF ALL BILLBOARDS?
Phasing out all billboards has been discussed in a couple of Treasure Valley communities. Nampa spokeswoman Sharla Arledge said the city is researching the possibility; Garden City discussed it but never considered it seriously, Mayor John Evans said.
No municipalities in Idaho have implemented such a program because of the issue of taking property without just compensation, Alder said. The cities would have to pay the owners the value of the billboards - not just the nuts and bolts, but the revenue they generate, he said.
"Like them or not, billboards represent a longstanding existing business interest, and instituting a mechanism to force them out of business would have been challenging on several fronts," Evans said.
The city received two emails opposing the billboard on West 41st Street, including one from Brenda Bulcher. She said Curtis is the only "pretty gateway" to the city and a new billboard on 41st would "mar a person's first impression of Garden City."
"The citizens of Garden City want to live in a city of green gardens, not gardens of signs," she wrote.
The one person who spoke against the billboard at a council meeting Monday was former Councilwoman Elfreda Higgins, a member of the city's planning and zoning commission.
Alder said the billboard won't impede views for motorists - or residents on the rim - because it's near the bottom of the hill, about 300 feet south of Valley Tools.
SIGNS ARE A FACT OF MODERN LIFE
In February, the Design Review Committee determined the proposal met the city's requirements and recommended it for approval. The city's Planning & Zoning Commission voted in April to approve the billboard in a 2-1 vote; two commission members were absent. The planning commission recommended a 5-foot height reduction "to reduce the impact on the vista to the gateway," according to a city staff report.
Beaumont said the city and Ada County Highway District have invested thousands of dollars in landscaping and other improvements - including ornamental lights - to make the Curtis gateway more attractive.
"We're not going to block the view of the nice ornamental lights," Alder said.
Moser said "nobody likes billboards," but they are a reality of life.
"Our code does allow for this," he said. "The Comprehensive Plan is a beautiful document, but it is a plan. It isn't a law. It isn't code."
He said the city's other gateways - Chinden, State Street and Ustick Road - all have signs.
"I just feel like it would be the wrong thing to do to go against the recommendation of two bodies we appointed, and the code we all voted to put in place," Moser said.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413