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Thread: Allowing off-premise signs in special districts (business campuses)

  1. #1

    Allowing off-premise signs in special districts (business campuses)

    Currently the Sign section of our Zoning ordinance is pretty restrictive to off premise signs, we require 1,000' separation.

    The issue we've ran into is we have a newly created Medical District off of the downtown which has 3-4 major employers. These major employers and and rents a number of parcels that they use for parking and other ancillary functions. They want to install signs on these properties which direct individuals to the main building or to other sites on their individual campus.

    Our Code Enforcement is saying signs directing people to the main buildings on these sites count as off-premise signs, meaning that as this area developers we are going to run into a whole bunch of requests for variances.

    Do any of you know of ways that this is treated? Our initial thoughts were to either alter the definition of off-premise signs to allow for properties which support nearby uses to be excluded or create an overlay district for this area or the urban core in general.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I would allow them as directional signage. If necessary I would help them through the BZA appeal process. Heck, I might argue that they are wayfinding signage and should be allowed in the rights-of-way. Think of it like a college campus where one can easily get lost. No advertising, of course.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Salmissra's avatar
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    Our sign code has separate definitions for directional signs, way-finding signs, off-premise signs, tenant identity signs, building identity signs, etc. The size, number and location of each vary, but with these differences a major employment area, such as a medical district or university, could have lots of signage! We also offer Special Provision Sign Districts, which are essentially Planned Developmeny District overlays for signage only. Works well for specific areas that need tweaked signage due to historic status, identification needs, or just original, new sign types. We currently have about 16 of them - one for the Arts District, one for the Sports/Entertainment area, one for the historic core, etc.
    "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

  4. #4
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I would call them directional signs under our code and exempt them, since the signs are within the same "campus." However, my preference would be to force the entire campus to prepare a master sign plan, which is similar to Salmissra's program. That allows you to address all signage needs in one shot rather than piecemeal.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    We have special overlays that allow wayfinding signage within the downtown or nearby special use districts (Medical Mile, campus). Get the medical folks to come up with a signage plan and have them provide maps, which are then mounted on stanchions to match your other wayfinding placards.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian chasqui's avatar
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    Special Sign Districts

    We have the same issues and also use special sign districts for those large multi-use or multi-destination areas. As Salmissra says, they're like a PD for signs. For a nice example of Medical District wayfining signs, Check out Houston's Texas Medical Center.

  7. #7
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    In the context of office developments or campuses, we allow one sign per "entrance". As long as a sign is placed on property where the "advertised" use occurs, it is considered "on premises" according to our ordinance. Our ordinance limits the number of such signs per road frontage in certain zones, but not in our professional office zone.

    Off premises signs are totally prohibited. This can be a real problem for multiple occupancy office and industrial parks that are located off of a major thoroughfare. We have no mechanism to allow such a development to advertise or direct traffic toward those destinations. Ridiculous.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Salmissra's avatar
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    ^^ Sounds like you need a complete sign overhaul!

    Be careful - it's very easy to create a huge sign monster when going through this process. Signage is tricky, and can lead to all sorts of problems when updating. I suggest targeting the areas that need major overhaul, and do only those first. Then focus on the other areas. That way, you've created smaller, easier to handle pieces that can actually be managed.

    Our sign code is not perfect by any stretch, but with lots of types of signs, we've significantly cut down on variance requests for signage.
    "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

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