Sign code nearly complete

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By Katy Korkos

Tuesday’s Planning and Zoning workshop revisited a proposed sign code that is almost ready for prime time, after nine workshops and nearly two-and-a-half years of effort by the members of the commission, the business community and Community Development Director Rick Bohn.

“This is a complete draft, but not necessarily a final draft,” Bohn said, as he explained that the draft would only be considered final after the public had a chance to review the plan. “There will be a lot of opportunity for the public to review this. At this point, I’m not even setting a date for the introduction of the ordinance.” Bohn said that he would publish the draft on the county’s website as well as take it to community groups such as the League of Women Voters, local real estate interests and the Chamber of Commerce. He said that he has tried to incorporate comments and suggestions he has received from the public, hoping to build a consensus in the community regarding the sign code before it becomes law.

“The complete redrafting of our existing sign code has been a long and difficult process, but I believe we have finally reached a point where the draft addresses almost all of the major issues we’ve been discussing,” Bohn said.

The most obvious changes to the code are the proposals that the maximum height for freestanding signs in the downtown area be raised from four feet to ten or 15 feet, depending on location, and the maximum height for signs in the County be lowered from 20 feet to 15 feet.

In addition, the large signs that sit in the back of trucks or on trailers would be prohibited. Bohn said that there would be a grandfather clause included which would mean that existing signs, as long as they were legally placed, would be allowed to stay unless they were substantially modified.

In addition to the requirements, the code would also include incentives for businesses to increase the quality of their signs, such as allowing more surface area for specific sign types, and allowing two signs rather than one per frontage if the sign is a “monument” type.

Bohn said that the proposed would also remove ambiguities in the current code, supply illustrated sign definitions, simplify the rules for temporary signs and clarify the rules for home-based businesses. Business districts, such as DP Road, which are located off of main roads, would be allowed to place directional signs in specific right-of way locations.

“I’ve administered sign codes for 20 years, and I’ve never really found one that was clear and understandable,” Bohn said.

Commission chair David Izraelevitz asked Bohn whether there would be specific areas designated signs in right-of-ways, and Bohn said that the traffic division was preparing a map to show where those might be located so as not to interfere with traffic.

Businessman Lee Metzger thanked both Bohn and the commission for their efforts in bringing the proposed code changes to this point.

“Rick has been really easy to work with,” Metzger said. “I think you’re going in the right direction. You’re trying to help businesses and they really need it, and you’re trying to keep Los Alamos beautiful and I really appreciate it.”