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Thread: Electronic message signs

  1. #1
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    Electronic message signs

    Currently our zoning ordinance does not discuss electronic message board signs. A bank is looking to add a small 6 inch electronic message to the top of an existing sign.

    How should this be regulated? Our sign ordinance does not clearly even state how many signs or what square footage should be allowed in the central business district. I have been told DDA signs go through the DDA but I do not see it anywhere in the zoning ordinance.

    I appreciate any help or insight you can give.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    I get the feeling we're missing information here. First, is the DDA a special body? I'm not familiar with the acronym but I'm supposing it's a "Downtown Design Authority". We planners never stray far in the naming department.

    You've been "told" it goes through the DDA? Told by whom? And if it does then you're probably the only one who can answer your question by reading what guidelines the DDA - whether broadly or with great specificity - may impose in that situation.

    Sorry, that's about the best I can do for an answer with the info. Anything else we should know about the situation? What is your involvement, exactly?
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    A DDA is a Downtown Development Authority. It is a quasi governmental agency that uses value capture of tax revenues to spur development in downtowns.

    In terms of why your ordinance does not adress this, it may need to be revised. Signs such as these are starting to infiltrate Michigan and if not controlled can become very garish. Unfortunately, one of the biggest offenders to these signs are municipalities themselves, who leave the door wide open for these signs.

    Note I am a transportation planner and am not an expert in ordinances.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  4. #4
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    A DDA is a Downtown Development Authority. It is a quasi governmental agency that uses value capture of tax revenues to spur development in downtowns.

    In terms of why your ordinance does not adress this, it may need to be revised. Signs such as these are starting to infiltrate Michigan and if not controlled can become very garish. Unfortunately, one of the biggest offenders to these signs are municipalities themselves, who leave the door wide open for these signs.

    Note I am a transportation planner and am not an expert in ordinances.
    All good points. In the meantime, your ordinance may give you direction concerning the qualities of electronic signs such as animation, movement or the appearance of movement, illumination/shielding, etc. These may help you control the sign while the code revisions are researched and implemented.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I checked your ordinances online and it appears Sec. 86-531 of the Zoning Code deals with signs. I don't have a zoning map, but I'm assuming the bank in question is likely located in B-1 Central Business District? If I'm reading it correctly, the bank appears to be limited to a whopping 300 square feet(!) of freestanding signage per 86-531 (b)(8).

    You're right, no mention of electronic message displays. The ordinance doesn't appear to regulate the number of signs either.

    If there's someone pounding on the table demanding a permit tomorrow for this small electronic sign, I think the easy thing to do would be say okey dokey (presupposing they don't already have a 300 sq ft three ring circus display), but then do as others have suggested and look at amending the Code and adopting regulations for electronic message displays in the very near future so the next applicant that comes walking in won't be able to put up their 300 square-foot jumbotron. These things are spreading everywhere and the smart thing to do is to adopt standards before they're on one's doorstep with lawyers in tow.

    There are many examples of electronic message display codes out there to use as a template. Or you could, of course, just consider banning the things outright - some places do that too.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Our city just finished adopting standards for EMC signs. Of course, our zoning districts will be distinct, etc. but if you're interested in seeing what our public officials ended up adopting PM me an email address and I'll send it over to you.

    On a related note, we've taken an enormous amount of flak from the sign builders since adoption, but it's becoming more and more clear we did the right thing. Opened up the availability in the heavier commercial area and very very limited in our more neighborhood-oriented commercial zones.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  7. #7
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I was looking for the study, but couldn't find it off hand, but there is a fairly new study (in the last year) by some federal agency that has data to support the severe regulation of these types of signs. The study puts a huge hole in the "these signs aren't a public safety issue" argument.

    I will post it when I find it.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    The other posts cover the major points, but I would emphasize this

    Originally posted by Maister:
    These things are spreading everywhere and the smart thing to do is to adopt standards before they're on one's doorstep with lawyers in tow.
    My city went through this a year or two ago, and I think we reached a reasonable compromise where we allow them, but prohibit movement and animation, and limit intensity and how often the display can change. They area only allowed in commercial areas.

    Hink Planner, Id be very interested in that study if you can find it.

  9. #9
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Of course I can't find the pdf on my HD. I think it might have been a draft of the FHA study that is coming out soon. Not sure though. I did find this link, which I saved a couple months ago...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/02/te...ewanted=1&_r=1

    Not really helpful in any sense other than that it gives you some real world context outside of what the sign companies would have you believe.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    My fair, large city has separate regulations for LED and electronic signs in the downtown area, and the same signs elsewhere. It keeps all the glare in one location, and seems to work so far.

    In addition, we just started discussions on updating our ordinance to address digital billboards. We will be learning on both state regulations and the ordinances of other cities to craft ours. Fun!
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kpf View post
    .....Hink Planner, Id be very interested in that study if you can find it.
    Perhaps Hink is referring to this study?

    http://www.scenic.org/billboards/dig..._safety_report
    Annoyingly insensitive

  12. #12
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Perhaps Hink is referring to this study?

    http://www.scenic.org/billboards/dig..._safety_report
    I believe you are correct good sir. Thank you.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Originally posted by RichmondJake
    Perhaps Hink is referring to this study?

    http://www.scenic.org/billboards/dig..._safety_report
    Thanks for the link. Looks interesting; now to find some time to read it.

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