Is it going digital?

[attach]6035[/attach]Residents fired questions at proponents of a proposal to erect a digital billboard on York Mills Road during a community meeting on May 24.

If approved by the city, the new billboard will replace a static sign on the south side of the road about 350 metres east of Leslie Street.

The proposed billboard would be owned by Metrolinx, with the advertising revenue going toward transit.

Don Mills Residents Association Inc. president Terry West led most of the questioning of Allvision, Metrolinx’s consultant on the project. West mostly inquired about light output from the digital signs, as well as how a frequently changing sign might affect drivers.

“From an advertising perspective it’s great, I acknowledge that,” he said. “But for people’s visual fields it can be very distracting.”

By law, the new signs will be able to change at most only every 10 seconds. The changeover also must happen in less than one third of a second, and without any effects, including fades, flashes or wipes.

While this will minimize distractions for drivers, West still sees a problem, he said.

“Let’s say one ad is white over here,” he said, motioning with his hands to a particular side of a billboard. “And when it changes, the next ad is blue in that same spot. In your periphery, it’s going to look like a flash.”

West was also concerned with the light output from the signs affecting the nearby homes on Hurlingham Crescent, southeast of York Mills Road and Leslie Street.

The closest house will be 243 metres from the sign would be the equivalent brightness of about half a candle if it were four and a half metres away, according to Allvision. The current sign, which is lit by pot lights, is around 0.9 candles, meaning the digital sign’s light output would be lower than the current sign, they said.

The digital signs will also be turned off at 11 p.m. every night.

An expected drastic reduction in skyglow has made Ward 25 councillor Jaye Robinson come around to the idea, she said. With the digital signs, less light is expected to reflect straight into the sky.

“Light pollution is a worry for me, so I wasn’t very fond of this idea off the top,” she said. “Everybody who was here was against the idea when they arrived and I think people are feeling well-informed from tonight.”

In early June, a city report is to recommend how to implement existing bylaws regarding digital signs. It is expected to recommend the city study the impacts of the new signs.

While she isn’t ready to pick a side just yet, she’ll be voting for the city to conduct the proposed study, Robinson said.

As for West, though the meeting was very insightful, he’s still not sold, he said.

“What precedence are we setting by bringing LEDs into the suburban areas?” he said. “Do we want all this commercialization right on our back door? That’s the question.”