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The most significant change to the new sign ordinance is codifying sign permits by “Sign Areas” rather than zoning districts. With this approach, the sign code is based on the context of surrounding land uses, road dynamics and ambiance. These five areas can be applied to any new developments in the future.
Area 1: all residential areas.
Area 2: Pajarito Acres area, which includes some incidental or accessory commercial uses.
Area 3: Central Avenue: Designated as a low speed vehicle/pedestrian environment.
Area 4: Trinity Drive, N.M.502 and Diamond, areas primarily geared toward vehicular traffic by commuters and locals familiar with the area.
Area 5: SR4, areas with higher speeds and a high concentration of out-of-town visitors.
A summary of the changes in the staff report reads:
1. The draft completely reorganizes the sign code article with the intent to make it easier to read and find specific regulations.
2. It removes ambiguous language to allow faster, simpler and more accurate administration of the code.
3. It adds illustrations and more thorough definitions and requirements.
4. It expands the number and type of signs that can be installed without a permit; for example commercial window signs meeting standards for total window coverage
5. A new provision would require all “non-conforming” signs to be brought up to code when a sign and business have been determined to be abandoned.
6. A new provision would require all “non-conforming” signs to be brought up to code if a property owner increases an existing business building by 25 percent in size or remodel.
7. It allows sign permit applicants with unusual site situations or needs to request a “waiver” from provisions of the code from the Board of Adjustment.
8. It would allow for electronic message boards in certain locations and with certain conditions attached.
9. It maintains the current ban on billboards.
10. It modifies sign heights to allow sign heights of up to 20 feet in Sign Area 5, 15-feet in Area 4, and an increase in sign heights along Central (generally Sign Area 3) from 4-feet in height to 10-feet.
11. It clarifies rules for home occupation and home business signs.
12. It allows for the installation of new types of signs that are currently not allowed such as district identification signs, information kiosk signs, and off-site business directional signs.
13. It establishes the opportunity and possibility in the future for the County to pursue a County maintained way-finding sign program.