By Sally Gillie
Monroe’s new sign code proposal should be finalized by the end of this month and ready for review by the city council.
At the planning commission’s March 11 workshop, final details of the new sign code were discussed, such as how to address murals and what should be the maximum height for signage along Hwy. 522 in west Monroe at the Rairdon Dodge and Speedway Chevrolet dealerships.
Commissioners agreed that the city’s current code regarding murals is satisfactory and should remain unchanged. The city now allows for murals in most zones, with the commercial message portion of the mural considered part of the signage allowance for the business. Murals without commercial messages can be allowed without a sign permit, subject to city review.
The maximum height for signs at the western edge of the city at 164th Street and Hwy. 522 is still to be worked out by the planning commission, but could be as high as 45 feet.
Commissioners Bill Kristiansen, Wayne Rodland, Jeff Sherwood and Bridgette Tuttle favored the 45-foot height allowance, which would allow drivers from both eastbound and westbound lanes of Hwy. 522 easy visibility of signage.
Kristiansen said, “I’m good with 45 feet. I would like to see that lower side, which would be Rairdon (Dodge), have some equal advantages to Speedway (Chevrolet).”
But commissioners David Demarest and Dian Duerksen agreed with the city staff’s proposal that a maximum of 35 feet is adequate for visibility from Hwy. 522.
“I really hate the thought of a 45 foot high, 140 square-foot video screen up there for all to be watching, that’s what we could be talking about there,” said Demarest. “It could become a very prominent sign in that part of town.”
“I’ve seen what those signs look like in Nebraska, I would prefer it to be a little bit lower,” said Duerksen.
The commissioners decided to table the final vote on sign height until their next meeting.
Other details worked out by planning commissioners this week was establishing maximum square footage for freestanding signs in areas zoned general commercial and service commercial, such as the new Safeway sign on U.S. 2.
Allowing for a 150 square-foot maximum for these signs, an increase of 50 square feet over the existing sign code but less than the 200 square foot proposed by the city’s sign consultant, was seen as a reasonable compromise by the commission. The new Safeway sign, at 120 square feet, is well within the new sign code regulations.
The planning commission is expected to finalize the proposed sign code at its March 25 meeting, which means the city council could begin its review next month. A public hearing will be held as part of that process, but has not yet been scheduled.
Key changes in the new proposed sign code include removing the A-board signs out of the industrial district, setting restrictions on banner signs and new guidelines on window signs, improvements aimed at cleaning up the city’s existing landscape.
Roosevelt Road rezone
Also at the March 11 workshop, the planning commission continued its public hearing on the proposed Roosevelt Road rezone, with two residents coming forward with testimony. The city is proposing to rezone 71 acres adjacent to Roosevelt Road, a change that would allow for higher density housing of five to seven homes per acre and also be consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.
A primary concern of residents living in the Foothills community next to the rezone is how future development there will accommodate the additional traffic, since currently there is only one way in and out of the area.
Geoffrey Thomas, speaking on behalf of the Foothills homeowners’ board, told the planning commission, “When you allow for something to occur you should have the forethought to try to make certain that you’re not worsening the situation.”
Thomas said the Foothills community, with its 210 homes and over 500 residents, has “legitimate concerns with increasing development in terms of density relative to what currently is allowed today, on property whose sole point of ingress and egress is through the Foothills.”
Planning commissioners directed city staff to determine whether the city could approve the rezone with the condition that a future developer would provide direct access to Roosevelt Road, with development starting at the western edge of the property.