Verizon Center could get controversial signs by October

Local,DC,Alan Blinder

A D.C. lawmaker wants the Verizon Center to be able to install signs on its façade as quickly as possible and wants her colleagues to pass emergency legislation to clear the way.

In a memorandum sent Thursday, Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander said she plans to move legislation next week that could allow the arena to install new signs by October.

"Verizon Center is currently preparing for the upcoming sports seasons this fall and new signage and digital displays would improve the aesthetics of the building and increase tax revenue for the District," Alexander wrote. "Comprehensive sign regulations are currently being drafted by (a mayoral task force); however, it is unlikely that they will be ready for council approval until early 2013."

Under a bill Alexander's committee approved in June, Verizon Center officials would be able to seek permits to add up to nine graphics. The legislation would require that the images, which could be digital and animated, not impair drivers on nearby streets or "adversely impact the character or integrity of the Verizon Center."SClB

A spokeswoman for Alexander could not be immediately reached for comment, but the emergency legislation could be a way for Alexander to secure approval for the signs before lawmakers take a two-month recess.

Tuesday's legislative meeting, when the committee's bill will be considered for the first time, is the last session of the full council before the break begins. Lawmakers must weigh non-emergency legislation -- including the committee's original version of the proposal -- twice before it can become law.

Emergency legislation, though, could be voted on and approved Tuesday without the lengthy delay.

Ted Leonsis and his company, Monumental Sports, have been urging city officials for months to give the go-ahead for the signs, which he says will improve the Gallery Place area and bring in new tax dollars for the District.

Neighborhood advocates have balked at the proposal, and Monumental engaged in a prolonged outreach company to assuage fears.

Although residents say some concerns -- including that the signs would overwhelm the area -- have been resolved, neighborhood groups have complained about Alexander pushing a legislative fix while a mayoral task force is considering new guidelines for signage in the District.

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