After enacting new regulations concerning signs throughout the city earlier this year, the Oklahoma City Council is now reviewing special rules just for selected areas of town. The council was presented a plan at its Aug. 3 meeting that would provide more flexibility when it comes to the types and size of signs in areas like downtown and the Paseo District.
Back in January, the council approved a new sign ordinance that set forth specific rules on the type, size and location of signs. The measure came after a three-year study by a city task force.
The main controversy at the time was what types of signs would be allowed in residential areas. After finding reasonable ground, the ordinance was adopted. There was also a provision dealing with signs in design districts, such as historic landmark areas, or business districts, like Bricktown. It banned EMD (electronic message display) signs from design review districts until the city came up with new regulations. The new proposal calls for continued restrictions on EMD signs in certain areas and on size, with the exception of Bricktown and downtown.
"These are the two districts with the most activity (and) most appropriate for large signs," said Susan Miller with the city's Planning Department.
The proposal gives the Downtown Design Review Committee and Bricktown Urban Design Committee the decision-making power in regards to EMD signs instead of the city setting a maximum size of EMD sign within those districts. Other design districts, such as the Paseo and the Capitol Hill districts, would have the final say on signage, but within certain size guidelines from the city.
The new criteria for sign technologies and uses within the downtown and Bricktown areas permit A-frame signs, also called sandwich signs; sidewalk signs, which are attached to the sidewalk surface; projection image signs; temporary signs, such as large display banners and wall-scapes or building wraps, which are signs almost the size of a building. An example of a wallscape would be some of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team signs that draped buildings during the NBA season.
But City Manager Jim Couch addressed business signs that simultaneously promote their own company and the Thunder.
"Some signs that were present during the Thunder season, where a business was posting its own sign and also saying, 'Go Thunder,' will not be allowed," Couch told the council.
The proposal also prohibits Level 2 EMD signs, which are signs with text and graphics that appear to move or change in size with messages that may scroll across the sign, in the Cottage District near St. Anthony's Hospital, and bans EMD signs within 100 feet of the Oklahoma River except in the Regatta District.
The fees associated with the signs would be $100 for an EMD sign of less than 25 square feet and $500 for larger EMD signs. City officials estimate projected revenue of $2,000 a year, as they do not expect a sharp rise in EMD applications. A-frame signs will not require a permit or approval from the city.
The proposal went through several design review committees before its presentation to the City Council. All of the committees, with the exception of the Urban Design Review Commission, approved the measure. Last month, the Planning Commission gave its thumbs-up.
"We met with downtown stakeholders and sign representatives, and everyone was supportive of the ordinance changes," Miller said. "They like that it provided more flexibility in areas such as downtown and Bricktown."
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held on Tuesday, with the council expected to make a final vote at its Aug. 31 meeting. "Scott Cooper
photo This Thunder banner hanging from the SandRidge tower, which does not promote a company name, would be allowed under a new city proposal. Photo/Mark Hancock