by CYNTHIA KMETT
It was much to the chagrin of residents along the Rochester Road corridor when they discovered the construction of several large digital billboards on Rochester Road and Maple Road in the city.
It was November 2017 and their protests were loud. How could this happen? Well, the signs were actually within the law. It was just that no one had ever applied for a 200- square-foot sign in the past, especially with electronic lights.
A moratorium was enacted by Council on November 20, 2017 due to concerns related to aesthetics and safety. The moratorium disallowed new large ground signs and digital message signs. The moratorium resolution directed staff to research the potential impacts of digital signs and draft amendments to Chapter 85 Sign to address these impacts. Consultant firms Carlisle-Wortman Associates and Hubbell, Roth & Clark assisted staff in this effort. The findings of the Electronic Message Center (EMC) LED Billboard Illumination Study will be presented to City Council on September 10, 2018.
While a 200-square-foot sign will soon be a thing of the past allowed in Troy, don’t expect those that are already up to come down anytime soon. The city is already being sued in Federal Court to allow the three signs that were previously approved to go up.
This effort to limit the size of big signs also gives the City Council the chance to amend the Chapter 85 Sign Ordinance with additional updates.
In 2011, the City substantially amended Chapter 39 Zoning Ordinance. As a result, Chapter 85 Signs became inconsistent with the Zoning Ordinance in terms of the underlying zoning districts.
In 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided the case Reed v. Town of Gilbert. This case addressed the content neutrality of local Sign Ordinances.
The proposed draft amends Chapter 85 Signs and is provided to City Council at this time as an informational item. It is requested that City Council provide comments to City Management. This item is intended to be an action item on September 10, 2018.
The following is a summary of the proposed amendments to Chapter 85 Signs as prepared by Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm and given to City Council in last Monday’s packet. If you want to read the actual ordinance proposal in Chapter 85 of the Zoning Code as it now stands and before City Council members give administration their concerns, go to troygov.com and under “community” click on City Council. A link to their agenda packets is to the left, and toward the end of the packet on page 166, you can start reading. Should you want to make suggestions or voice concerns, send council an email, which is on the first page of the city council site.
So, changes will be found in these areas:
1. Amendments related to aesthetics and safety for ground mounted signs and digital signs:
• Created definition for Electronic Message Signs (EMS) and added a number of additional definitions that are used in the proposed text.
• Added a new Section 85.03.06 Electronic Message Signs.
• Electronic Message Signs permitted solely as a ground sign in any district subject to height and area requirements otherwise required. However, in no case shall an EMS exceed fifty (50) square feet in total area.
• Developed illumination requirements for EMS consistent with industry standards.
• Added language describing the methodology for measurement of illumination for EMS.
• Added requirements for message display which control the length of the message at no less than one minute, the means in which messages are changed, and overly-distractive movement (i.e. scrolling, flashing, etc.).
• Added language requiring existing signs to comply with EMS illumination levels within 30 days of the effective date of the amendment.
• Added requirements for certification that sign requirements are met and a provision that existing signs that are not in compliance must be adjusted to meet requirements.
2. Amendments related to content neutrality as per Gilbert vs. Reed eliminated content-based provisions for temporary signs.
3. Amendments related to consistency with Chapter 39 Zoning Ordinance update the zoning districts to reflect current Zoning ordinance districts.
• Create specific provisions for automobile dealerships similar to commercial zoning district provisions.
• Revise IB Integrated Industrial & Business District to be consistent with commercial zoning district provisions.
• Revise O, OM, and RC wall sign allowance in response to variances granted by the Building Code Board of Appeals. These allowances are consistent with commercial zoning provisions.
• Develop language for formbased districts (Big Beaver Road, Maple Road, Neighborhood Nodes) that is consistent with commercial zoning district provisions; and add additional pedestrian-scale wall/projecting sign.
• Eliminated language that limited the length of time for which a variance can be granted by the Board of Appeals and make variance standards consistent with those in the Zoning Ordinance.
• Added language permitting the amortization of non-conforming signs and regulations requiring the removal of non-conforming signs within 10 years after receiving notice of the non-conformity.