Jaeckle, Bermuda residents discuss new electronic message sign policy

A month after Chesterfield’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on a new policy for electronic message signs, Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle hosted her constituents last Thursday at Thomas Dale High School to address the issue.

Jaeckle began the meeting by reassuring those in attendance, a crowd nearly filling the school’s small auditorium, that she did not remove Chester from the list of historic villages in Chesterfield County during the September meeting. She did, however, in that meeting request that electronic message center signs be considered in the Village of Chester in mixed-used developments, most specifically the Chester Village Green.

“I felt it was important to at least open that door for discussion and see what the community thought,” she said. “Because I think all of the community really wants those businesses to survive down there.”

With the new sign policy now approved, it allows the developer of the Chester Village Green to apply for an electronic message sign center to be placed in the area to support its businesses – with the final decision pending a vote by the Board of Supervisors.

At the community meeting Thursday evening, Jaeckle said she was advised to defer the vote until after the November elections because of its controversial nature.

“I just don’t believe in that,” she said. “I just believe that you can’t be afraid to vote for things or to look at policies just because there’s an election. You have to look at things whether they’re the right thing to do or not. If I feel if I’m not making the right decisions that reflect the values of the community, then I shouldn’t be re-elected.”

The new policy will allow electronic signs to change their messages every 30 seconds, a longer amount of time before the messages change than the previous 10 seconds; they can have up to three lines of text, and be limited to one sign every 1,000 feet. Restrictions were also made on the placement of signs in historical areas, villages, among other parts of Chesterfield County.

As Chester Village Green is considered a mixed-development, the location would be considered for the usage of electronic message signs.

Melissa Tribble, soon to have a business in the Chester Village Green called “D’lish,” said she would be interested in the area having an electronic message sign; but with “limited advertising budgets” she is concerned about the 30-second “blip” not necessarily getting the attention of people driving down route 10.

“You’re going to get very limited usage,” Tribble said. “It doesn’t make sense for someone’s advertising budget to go into businesses in the village where you’re already trying very hard to build your business … I’d much rather have a nice, very attractive sign at the entrance to the village wherever you want if you pay one time and have a perpetual sign.”

A life-time resident of Chester, Sharin Murphy grew up in the community when Chester truly had the “village feel.”  She too feels that smaller businesses in an area where electronic signs are used would have a hard time competing with larger businesses.

“I think one thing the community has to ask themselves is: What do we want Chester Village to feel and look like?” she said. “And that’s a major thing for us to ask ourselves as a community. When Chester Village Green was initially developed, we agreed that we wanted it to have the village feel … and I think that we need to ask ourselves that if we’re getting into electronic signage, will that start changing the feel of the community?”

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