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Signs of trouble

Council sends sign ordinance back to staff for revision
By: Carol Percy, Reporter
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Lincoln City Council’s dissatisfaction with Lincoln city staff’s most recent draft of the municipal sign ordinance could be summed up in two phrases: too many signs, too few sign locations.

City staff presented the 27-page draft sign ordinance for approval at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, giving the council several options to deal with the troublesome sign ordinance.  

For more than 18 months, the document has been discussed at numerous city staff meetings, three community workshops and three Planning Commission meetings.

On July 30, the Planning Commission sent recommendations to City Council members for their deliberation. The commission approved two recommendations.  First, to repeal and re-enact Title 16 (Lincoln’s municipal code) as it relates to signs, and second, to approve a resolution proposed by city staff for two community-event sign locations.

On Tuesday night, council discussed their options: a) take public comment, b) approve the draft that included changes passed down from the Planning Commission, c) approve the draft with suggested modifications or d) give city staff additional direction, according to a Sept. 9 memorandum prepared for that council meeting by Robert Poetsch, associate planner for Lincoln’s community development services department.

Council voted Tuesday to direct staff to revisit the sign ordinance, and after revising the document, to bring it back for discussion at the regular City Council meeting on Oct. 14.

At Tuesday’s lightly-attended meeting at McBean Park Pavilion, council members stated specific reasons for sending the ordinance back for revision, citing issues both with vague language limiting the quantity of signs allowed by the city and with too few city-permitted locations for posting temporary event signs.

 

Lincoln Councilman Peter Gilbert told the council that he wanted “to know exactly” what he was being asked to vote on.

 

“What’s before us now doesn’t address it,” Gilbert said, referring to limits on sign postings and allowed locations within the city.

Gilbert discussed an email letter from a Lincoln Hills woman sent to council members Monday. Having read the draft sign ordinance, the woman expressed concern that the document did not appear to address the issue of too many temporary event signs posted in the city, Gilbert said.

As an example, she pointed “to the excess of temporary signage in the Lincoln Hills Town Center off of Lincoln Boulevard and Ferrari Ranch Road,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said he drove to the Lincoln Hills Town Center and counted 24 perimeter signs and more than 30 temporary event signs inside the center’s grounds.

“It seemed a bit much to me too,” Gilbert said Wednesday. “I’d ask, ‘is it legal to have 50 signs in one area?’ It becomes blight and a safety issue. With so many signs trying to get your attention, it’s confusing and distracting (to drivers).”

Part of city staff’s task will be to determine which signs fall under the city’s jurisdiction and which are the responsibility of the shopping center’s management, according to Gilbert.

Pointing to “a proliferation of signs” at the Lincoln Hills Town Center, and their often poor construction, Gilbert said he hoped city staff “would keep these issues in mind” when revising the sign ordinance.

“In my opinion, the sign ordinance should define the quantity of signs allowed and a minimum safety standard of construction (for signage),” Gilbert said.

Jim Bermudez, Lincoln’s development-services division manager for Lincoln’s community development department, told the council Tuesday night that city staff is “definitely targeting curtailing of the proliferation of signage” in Lincoln.

Lincoln Councilman Spencer Short challenged city staff about how much the city will pay to administer the sign ordinance.

“I don’t want us to go bankrupt focusing on signs,” Short said.

Short also expressed concerns about city staff’s plan to limit sign postings to two city locations, one at First Street and Joiner Parkway, and the other at the Lincoln Public Library on Twelve Bridges Drive.

Before recent sign ordinance revisions, Lincoln allowed six city locations for the posting of public event signage.

Short said he “would like to see a total of four posting locations.” He suggested two additional designated sites at Highway 193 and Highway 65.

Council voted unanimously to continue discussion of the sign ordinance at the regular City Council meeting to be held Oct. 14. Council also voted to keep public comment open until the Oct. 14 council meeting. Voting members were Mayor Gabriel Hydrick, and Gilbert, Stan Nader and Short. Council member Paul Joiner was absent from the meeting.