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Town & Country considers ‘major amendments’ to city sign code

At the Town & Country Board of Aldermen meeting on Jan. 11, City Planner Ryan Spencer presented an overview of five major amendments for sign regulations within the city. The proposed changes address sign definitions, graphics, process, general requirements and zoning districts.

The current sign code was established as an independent code chapter in 1989, according to Spencer. Prior to that time, signage was regulated within the zoning code. It has been amended five times.

“Legal opinion has changed in that time and our sign code is in need of major amendments in order to be brought forward for the time and place that we’re in place now,” Spencer said.

The proposed updates were drafted by members of a Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) task force. Terminology was updated and “content-based” definitions were eliminated, according to Spencer. He noted that 25 definitions were added, 13 definitions were amended, 25 definitions were deleted and 16 definitions were unchanged. 

One “big change” in the proposed draft, according to Spencer, is how sign variances and appeals are handled. Currently, the process requires a hearing and review during a board of aldermen meeting. The draft proposes that process, going forward, be handled through the board of adjustment. Additionally, the revocation, or cancellation, of sign permits would become an administrative process rather than an aldermanic process.

Conditional signs are proposed to be reviewed by the P&Z, as well as go before the board of aldermen for a final review of approval.

“Moving forward, sign variances are going to have a very high burden and threshold for showing hardship under the current draft,” Spencer said.

Spencer showed graphics that are currently in the sign code and presented newly proposed graphics and images to city officials. Maximum color requirements were eliminated and minimum letter heights were expanded. Letter sizes larger than the permitted height will require a conditional review process.

The current code is very restrictive for letter heights, Spencer said. It is 12 inches for nonresidential uses in residential areas for churches and schools, 18 inches for office and medical uses, and 30 inches in a planned office park. After reviewing variance data and surrounding city regulations, Spencer said P&Z recommended 24 inches as a standard for nonresidential/office/medical concerns, or 36 inches if adjacent to major freeways.

While generally growing in popularity, digital signs are not prevalent in Town & Country. Within city limits, there is only one digital sign located outside the Lutheran Church on Clayton Road. The sign was approved in April 2012, according to Spencer.

“There were very conservative, limiting conditions with that digital sign,” he said. “When staff initially drafted the sign update, we included those conditions as digital sign regulations as a conditional sign that can receive special approval.”

Spencer added that it was the belief of the Planning & Zoning Commission that digital signs are not a fit for the city.

“It’s not really who we are, so we don’t want to encourage that kind of sign or conditional sign process, so digital signs are prohibited,” he said.

Additional changes in the proposed draft include an increase in the signage fee from $75 to $100 and elimination of the annual renewal requirement.

Recognizing that the sign code amendments were “a long, thorough and thoughtful process,” Mayor Jon Dalton thanked those on the P&Z task force for their work.

“Next to law enforcement and public safety, there are a few more important things than the planning and zoning ordinances and process to the city of Town & Country. It helps define us,” he said.

The board will vote on the proposed sign code amendments at its Jan. 25 meeting.

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