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South Salt Lake Journal

SSL Community Development works on new sign ordinance

Oct 28, 2020 04:41PM ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

The Five Man Electrical Band made this observation in 1971. The South Salt Lake Community Development is thinking the same thing in 2020.

In an Oct. 1 Planning Commission work meeting, Sean Lewis, deputy community development director, provided an update on the work to revise city ordinances on signs. 

The sign ordinance was last updated in 2003. The current work is to conform the code to state regulations as well as reflect current best practices standards. Only new signs will be approved under these new regulations.

It is important to note that this is a work in progress. Actual working on and passing an ordinance update is one or two months away.

“We are trying to make the regulations content neutral,” Lewis said.

Exempted signs

The working concept exempts certain signs from the regulations. These signs are directional signs, temporary yard signs under certain conditions (e.g. Heroes work here), temporary banners (e.g. Spring Cleaning Sale), real estate signs, construction signs, and small A-frame signs (e.g. Lunch Special).

Prohibited signs

The working concept would prohibit certain signs. The first type is called snipe signs. Think of signs like “I buy homes for cash” or “Roof Cleaning.” Typically, these signs are handwritten and placed in the parking strip. The working concept would eliminate any yard signs on public property including parking strips. For example, a campaign yard sign must be on the house side of the sidewalk. One exception to this concept is signs deemed beneficial to the city such as 2020 Census signs.

Other prohibited signs will be spotlights, paper signs attached to poles, and dancing pole man and other blow up signs.

Box signs

The working concept is to get away from box signs. This type of sign has a painted front that is back lit. These signs are quite common with small businesses over the front entrance. 

The plan is to require channel letters. The name of the company is spelled out in individual letters. Think of Costco or Smith’s. In some cases, a box sign will be allowed if it is part of a logo. For example, Dempsey’s Sports Bar and Grill.

Marquee signs

While this is not a common sign in SSL, there are some like at Century 21 Theaters, Crown Pawn Shop, or the Parker Theater.

There is not a working concept for this type of sign. However, Lewis asked the Planning Commission to start thinking about if the city should have this type of sign.

Sign location

Sign location often becomes a controversial issue. Businesses want signs but the city wants to make sure they do not overwhelm the area.

“We want to avoid visual clutter and have a clean looking city,” Lewis said.

The working concept is to allow one sign per street frontage. In addition, sign sizes need to be balanced with the building. In multi-use office buildings, signs will be allowed at the top of the building and on the first floor. It is possible that not all businesses in the building will have an outside sign.

Monument signs

Monument signs are stand-alone signs in front of a business. They are also common at apartment complex entrances. The working concept is to limit the location on the sign. Often only allowing one sign even though there are many entrances to the property.

It is becoming popular to add some type of an electronic messaging center (EMC) in the sign. An EMC is different from an electronic billboard. An electronic billboard is controlled off-site and advertises products and services of a business off-site. An EMC is controlled on site and advertises products and services available at that location. 

EMCs have been under fire because the brightness can distract drivers, However, a Texas A&M University's Transportation Engineering School study in 2012 reported that “the installation of digital on-premise signs does not lead to a statistically significant increase in crashes on major roads.”

Community Development is working on what percentage of the monument sign can be an EMC.

Other signs

Regarding window signs, the working concept is to have some percent of the window be a sign.

In the presentation, billboards were not addressed. However, the amount of billboards are controlled in current code. It is not the number of signs, but the amount of billboard space. A few months ago, Reagan Outdoor Advertising wanted to increase a sign along the I-15 corridor. To do so, they gave up two smaller signs—one on 2100 South and another on a residential street.

If you have any questions or concerns about the sign ordinance, contact the Planning Commission.