In a “virtual” meeting Thursday evening, the Humboldt County Planning Commission voted 4-2 to deny a special permit that would have allowed Eureka’s AllPoints Sign Company to rebuild a billboard that was toppled by high winds back in November.
The sign has been located in the coastal wetlands near Elk River for at least 65 years, according to a staff report and historic photographs. Its construction predates all the zoning and building codes that would apply to any new structures. So the debate at last night’s meeting focused largely on the question of whether rebuilding the sign constitute repair or new construction.
Jennifer Kalt, director of the environmental nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, told the Outpost that sign companies usually don’t bother applying for permits to rebuild fallen signs. Instead, they simply rush out and rebuild them without permission. And she scoffed at the notion that this particular sign dates back more than half a century. “There’s probably not a single board left from the 1940s, let’s face it,” she said. “This county has been talking for 40 years about regulating these things [billboards] to get them out of scenic and coastal wetland areas, and it’s time to just do it,” she said.