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Jefferson City Council aims to alter law on signs

POSTED: January 13, 2009 11:45 p.m.

Technology has changed so much in the past five years that it has prompted the Jefferson City Council to take a closer look at one of its ordinances.

During its most recent work session, the council discussed making changes to the portion of the city’s Land Use Management Plan that deals with sign regulations.

"Technology has changed so much since the plan was adopted back in 2004. The proposed amendments to the land use plan are meant to give better direction about what is allowed and what is prohibited," said John Ward, the Jefferson City manager.

"We’ve been getting a number of variance requests for signs that include LED lighting and movable messages because the wording (of the sign ordinance) is rather vague, so the changes are a way to better serve the applicants, so that they won’t have to apply for a variance."

According to a memo from the city’s planning and zoning department to the Jefferson City Council, an additional section is being proposed for the city’s land use plan to address the illumination and brightness of electronic signs.

Examples of such signs would be the style of signs that are used at some chain pharmacy stores to advertise specials or to display mortgage rates and other messages at various banks.

The proposed changes to the ordinances would set "a minimum and maximum illumination level" and specify that the signs have a "dimmer mechanism that reduces lighting at dusk."

If the changes are approved by the Jefferson City Council, they would not affect signs that have already been permitted. In other words, existing signs would be exempt from the new regulations. If the owners of the grandfathered signs want to change the structures, they would then be subject to the new rules.

"If the changes are approved, they would affect anything that is permitted from the date of adoption
forward," Ward said.

The city is not considering making changes in the sign ordinances pertaining to billboards.

During Monday’s City Council work session, Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner pointed out that all existing billboards in Jefferson are considered to be nonconforming signs.

"The existing signs on the gateway corridors surrounding Jefferson all exceed sign height and size limitations, but they received permits at the time that they were built," Ward said. "All billboards are currently prohibited and the ordinance changes won’t do anything to change that. The ordinance prohibiting billboards was adopted back in 2004, but like in other areas where they are banned, it was probably done for aesthetic reasons."

The Jefferson City Council is expected to take action on the proposed changes during its regularly scheduled voting session on Jan. 26.



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