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Signs, Signs, every where there are signs.

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,968
Points
49
I am looking for information on sign ordinances that have a significant limit on size (as in less than 10') and if anyone has any information on the economic impact that they have had on the community. (One example I have is Farmington Hills)

One thing that I am trying to get use to is portage has a shopping district, but no traditional downtown. I am thinking of ways to improve the look of the area, and try to eliminate the commercial highway look, maybe propose changing the sign ordinance to limit signs to 7 to 10’ feet.
 

Plannerbabs

Cyburbian
Messages
1,038
Points
23
What kind of signs? On-premise, off-premise, building, wall? We've got some size limitations and ratios based on building size, facade area, etc.
 

DecaturHawk

Cyburbian
Messages
880
Points
22
Good luck on that one, Michaelskis. I've driven down Westnedge, you've got quite a challenge there. The biggest problem you face is that it is pretty much all built out with all of the signage your current ordinances allow. A major change to the ordinance will lead to multiple nonconformities that will be difficult to change.

In my experience, sign ordinances are often made more restrictive because the planners want it and the community wants it, but when it comes down to forcing the signs to conform, the community (read: elected officials) loses the will to make it happen. No matter what route you choose: denying variances, amortization, sunset provisions, etc., you will likely face a court battle. While it's not impossible to win in court, the sheer volume of sign battles you will probably face will no doubt make your legal staff nervous.

Unfortunately, many communities opt for the safest route, which is to adopt a new, more restrictive ordinance, make the existing signs nonconforming, hope the Board of Appeals will deny variances, and have new, conforming signs replace the old ones as they age or become obsolete. This takes a long time, and is also difficult because the owners of the new conforming signs complain that their signs cannot compete with the existing taller, larger nonconforming signs.

Perhaps some of the Chicago area planners on Cyburbia have a handle on this. I think there are a few affluent older, inner-ring suburbs that have tackled this (Elmhurst, Wheaton, etc.) and perhaps someone from those towns could help you out. Good luck.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
25
We had a situation where our main road through town was littered with 25 foot high signs (this was about 8 years before I got here). The Council passed an ordinance that gave signs with a replacement value of less than $3000 had 3 years to come into compliance with the ordinance. Signs that had a replacement value of more than $3000 had 10 years. I came in at the end and had the daunting task of bringing these signs into compliance. It was a pain in the ass, but it worked and the City looks 100 times better.

The only major problem was that we allowed every pole sign to be 15 feet or less and every monument sign to 10 feet or less. I tried to point out this loophole that encouraged the far uglier pole signs over monument signs because they could be higher, but they didn't want to "change the rules in the middle of the game." I encouraged some people to come in and try to get sign variances for 12-15 foot monument signs for aesthetic reasons, and that helped a little. As soon as we had all of the signs in compliance, they changed the code to prohibit pole signs completely.

So in effect, dramatic changes to an ordinance can work well, the City just needs to have patience and let the amortization scheme run its course. Any change in ownership or sign modifications required the signs to come into compliance too, so about 25 percent of the signs were brought into compliance before the 10 year period was up anyhow.
 

Wulf9

Member
Messages
923
Points
22
Start with the economic development philosophy. Any business needs three signs -- a small pedestrian sign for a pedestrian immediately in front of the building, a fin (projecting) sign that can be seen by a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk, and an automobile oriented sign.

The first two are the most important, but most businesses want the auto signs and forget the pedestrian signs.

You have to be a pedestrian to enter the business. Take your merchants for a walk down the sidewalk and find out how many of them don't have pedestrian signs. There are lots of businesses where a potential customer can walk the sidewalk and stand in front of the business without knowing the name of the business.

The most successful business communities have small signs. Customers know where they are and come whether or not they have signs.

A significant effort to develop a sense of "commercial place" will do much more than huge signage. In fact, signage that is too big or uncoordinated often creates the sense of "desperate merchants" rather than a desirable place to shop.

Finally, signs need only to be "big enough" based on the speed of transportation. An "in front of building" sign can be one or two square feet on the door. A fin sign is best at 3-4 square feet. An auto sign is based on speed on the street. (I don't have any principles for that). Drive down the street and take pix from a car to show which actually provide identification. Businesses often want big signs in a location that is not really visible from a car.

So, start with the business community. You are not a planner who wants to limit theml You are trying to help them understand the economic development principles of signage. Then see if they want to work with those principles.

A final note. This works best if you have an economic development program that has been successful, and the sign presentation is a part of the overal program, not just sign oriented.
 

Suburb Repairman

moderator in moderation
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
7,393
Points
33
Check with Southlake, TX. It's a suburb/edge city of Dallas. It has about the most restrictive sign ordinance I've seen in this state. It has extensive design regulation and is heavily restrictive of height/size. It's a very well organized ordinance that addresses many concerns of a higher-growth city. I added a link below:

Southlake Planning Department

You'll need to look under the ordinances pull-down on the left side of the page.

I don't know if there have been any negative effects on the businesses. I heard from my brother that manages a Sam's in Grapevine that Walmart chose to locate their supercenter in Grapevine rather than Southlake because of the restrictive nature of Southlake, though that may have resulted from its other development ordinances. He got all of this second-hand, so he wasn't sure how accurate the story was. Yes, I know it's weird to have a Walmart manager and a planner come from the same family! :)
 

ludes98

Cyburbian
Messages
1,264
Points
22
Most good signage ordinances I have worked with limit height on monument signs to 12-15'. Pole signs are unnattractive, they completely ignore the human scale. I think that power centers (a reality of suburbs) should be limited to major tenants only or even better to establish an identity name like a mall. I hate seeing a 100' tall sign with 20 tenants on them. If you can beleive it, we actually have some monument signs approaching that size. They remind me of the video screen monument signs in Vegas. Building signage should fit the scale of the building. Sometimes it is tied to say property lines, but some commercial centers are flag lot style and this results in mismatched scale. Tied to building frontage works better.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,689
Points
53
I am also working on a revision of the sign code for here. Sounds like we're both in the same type of suburban context - no traditional, pedestrian scale commercial/business district - all commercial districts are auto-oreinted strips.

I am considering going the visiblity and good design route. Relating the size and height of signage with the traffic speeds and also with frontage and/or building widths.

SubRep thanks for the link to Southlake, TX.

Slightly O/T: I too know Westnedge well. It is a regular stop for trips back to family in Michigan. But I usually try to avoid it if possible though. Auto-oreinted commercial strips are pretty much always terrible places.
 
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michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,968
Points
49
Money

I was thinking about taking a different approach than some of the others here. I would like to have some proof of economic improvement and a social pride that has some correlation with a limited sign height. Right now, we allow poll signs up to 25’ and have a 5-year non-conformity agreement if they would like to do any changes. This way, it allows tenants some time to ease into the new requirement, instead of everyone putting money in right away. Much of our ordinance is great, but I feel that for the situation that we are in, a lower sign height maximum would be a vast improvement to our main commercial corridor.

Also if anyone knows of any books, research papers, journal or magazine articles, and other information about the correlation of lower signs and economic growth would be a great help to me. This way I can work with the economic development director, and have this proposed not as a “LETS CHANGE THE SIGN ORDINANCE.” Instead, I would go more at it as, “hey if we do this or this, we think that it would help businesses in the area… these places have done this, so it has worked in other places.” I don’t plan to sell the product, but instead sell the result of the product. (Yea I am a optimistic dreamer again)

Thanks again for your help.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
18,521
Points
69
Quick message: check out sign regulations for the following;

Aurora, Colorado
Westminster, Colorado
Fort Collins, Colorado
Thornton, Colorado
Lafayette, Coloraro
Louisville, Colorado
Boulder, Colorado
Overland Park, Kansas
Olathe, Kansas
Lenexa, Kansas
Leawood, Kansas
Shawnee, Kansas
Prairie Village, Kansas
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Lyndhurst, Ohio
Mayfield Heights, Ohio
University Heights, Ohio
South Euclid, Ohio

All max out at around 10' sigh height or shorter, although some have exceptions for large shopping centers. All have thriving retail environments.

You might want to take the Las Cruces, New Mexico approach and sneak in strict regulations through the implementation of design overlay districts.

Have a look at some of the images in the "Best Practices" gallery for examples of suburban scale commercial development in areas with strict sign regulations.
 

BCF

Cyburbian
Messages
29
Points
2
Well, you're lucky where you live. In the State of California we cannot amortize signs in commercial and industrial zones. If we want to get rid of non-conforming signs, we have to pay for them. We can do it in residential and rural zones, but first we'd have to do an inventory of all signs in the jurisdiction and then have the elected officials make a finding that the amortization is necessary. In a county that's almost the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, that's not likely to happen.

=Bob



Repo Man said:
We had a situation where our main road through town was littered with 25 foot high signs (this was about 8 years before I got here). The Council passed an ordinance that gave signs with a replacement value of less than $3000 had 3 years to come into compliance with the ordinance. Signs that had a replacement value of more than $3000 had 10 years. I came in at the end and had the daunting task of bringing these signs into compliance. It was a pain in the ass, but it worked and the City looks 100 times better.

The only major problem was that we allowed every pole sign to be 15 feet or less and every monument sign to 10 feet or less. I tried to point out this loophole that encouraged the far uglier pole signs over monument signs because they could be higher, but they didn't want to "change the rules in the middle of the game." I encouraged some people to come in and try to get sign variances for 12-15 foot monument signs for aesthetic reasons, and that helped a little. As soon as we had all of the signs in compliance, they changed the code to prohibit pole signs completely.

So in effect, dramatic changes to an ordinance can work well, the City just needs to have patience and let the amortization scheme run its course. Any change in ownership or sign modifications required the signs to come into compliance too, so about 25 percent of the signs were brought into compliance before the 10 year period was up anyhow.
 
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