PUBLIC HEARING AGENDA REQUEST

Sponsor:

Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Paul S. McCulla, County Administrator

 

March 13, 2008

 

Staff Lead:

Department:

Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator

 

Community Development

 

Topic:  

A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Section 8-1401 to Increase Identification Sign Limits in the Rural and Residential Zones

 

Topic Description:

The proposed text amendment seeks to increase the amount and type of signage allowed for non-residential uses in the rural and residential districts in order to allow Fire Stations to have more signage and utilize “bulletin board” type signs.

 

Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.

 

Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.

 

Staff Report:

Issue

The Zoning Administrator cited the New Baltimore Volunteer Fire Company for having a portable “Bulletin Board” type sign on its property in September 2007, asking that it be removed. The sign violated numerous provisions of the Zoning Ordinance: 1) no sign permit had been issued, 2) the sign exceeded the size allowed; 3) the sign included content that is not allowed (goes beyond identification), and 4) the sign is located at least partially within the VDOT right-of-way.   The citation created significant concern with the New Baltimore Company as well as other Fire Companies, because they rely on such signs to announce activities they sponsor as well as utilizing them for public service announcements (i.e., the recent “burn ban lifted”).  In recognition of the importance of the signage to the Fire Companies, former Supervisor Downey asked staff to work on a text amendment that would allow such “bulletin board” type signs at Fire Stations.

Background

The Zoning Ordinance currently establishes a general standard of a maximum of 32 square feet of signage for non-residential uses located in the rural and residential zoning districts, with multiple signs allowed so long as the total square footage does not exceed the 32 square feet. The rules further limit the signage to displaying only the name and use.  Three specific uses are given additional flexibility:

1.   Farms may have a total of 50 square feet of signage, provided no single sign exceeds the 32 square foot limit, and farm signs may include content advertising the products of the farm.

2.   Churches may have one sign for each frontage, with a maximum of 50 square feet in total signage and a maximum of 32 square feet for any individual signs, and may display additional information (i.e., activities) on a “bulletin board” type sign.

3.   A Farm Supply Establishment located on a major arterial may have up to 150 square feet of signage with approval of a special permit where it can be demonstrated the signage is needed for safety reasons.

Fire stations located in rural and residential zoning districts have no special requirements and are therefore subject to the general limit of 32 square feet, which can be allocated amongst multiple signs. 

Fire Stations located in Commercial and Industrial zoning districts have more flexibility under the current regulations.  They are allowed two square feet of signage for the first 50 feet of building frontage, plus one additional square foot of signage for each additional foot of building frontage.  Up to 50 square feet of the total signage allowed may be in a freestanding sign.

The table below summarizes sign information for the rescue and fire stations in the County.  Staff would note that many of these signs were placed without the required sign permit.

 

Fire Station Name

 

Zoning

Signage (Square Feet)

Message Board

Other Freestanding

Building

Total

Allowed

In Residential/Rural Districts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catlett VFC & Rescue

R-1

0

0

8

8

32

Goldvein VFC & Rescue

V

0

0

32

32

32

New Baltimore VFC & Rescue

R-1

43

20

17

80

32

Orlean VFC

RA/V

31

8

0

39

32

In Commercial Districts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catlett – Station 12

C-1

27

0

0

27

150

Lois VFC

C-2/RA*

27

0

31

58

131

Marshall VFC

C-1

39

0

35

74

114

Marshall Vol. Rescue Squad

C-1

26

0

55

81

120

Upperville VFC

CV

31

15

0

46

123

 * Station located on C-2 zoned portion of lot

  Note:  All square footages of signage are estimates

Discussion

The key issues that need to be addressed are:

             1) content of signs;

             2) amount of signage; and

             3) number of freestanding signs.

Change In Content

Identification signs for businesses and institutions located in the rural and residential districts are currently limited by the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance to only displaying “name and use.”   Only farms and churches are given explicit permission to add additional content to signage: church signs may have “bulletin boards” for announcements, and farm signs may advertise specific products.  This limitation is problematic, not only for fire stations, but also for other public or quasi-public uses located in rural and residential districts (i.e., schools) which also typically have “bulletin board” type signage to display activities and announcements.   And, in fact, schools have historically been allowed to have “bulletin boards” as part of their signage despite the existing language of the ordinance.  Therefore, staff recommends that the existing language be changed to allow the additional content for not just fire stations but all public uses, as follows:

3.   Identification Signs:

A.  Signage, not exceeding thirty two (32) square feet in area, for the purpose of showing the name and use of any lawful, non residential use within these districts for which other signage standards are not specifically set forth, when such signage is erected or displayed on the property.  In addition to displaying name and use, signage for public uses and schools, whether public or private, may also display information about activities and announcements.   Home occupations are not such uses qualifying under this subsection.  One sign not exceeding two (2) square feet in area shall be permitted for each single family home.  Height not to exceed ten (10) feet.

No change is necessary for signs in Commercial and Industrial districts, as those regulations already allow content beyond identification.

Amount of Signage

The amount of signage allowed would have to be significantly increased, from the current 32 square feet to at least 80 square feet, in order to accommodate the existing announcement sign at the New Baltimore Fire Station.  Other stations located in rural and residential districts currently have between 8 and 39 square feet of signage.    Because stations located in commercial and industrial districts are allowed more signage, none of the existing stations located in commercial districts exceed their current allocation of signage.  Signage amounts in the commercial districts range from an estimated 27 to 81 square feet.

Staff has some concerns that increasing the amount of signage allowed for fire stations to 80 square feet may be excessive for rural and residential areas and is inconsistent with the signage allowed for other public and quasi-public uses, which are restricted to 32 to 50 feet.   Both schools and churches have demonstrated over the years that a “bulletin board” type sign can be accommodated within the existing 32 to 50 square foot limit.   For example, the new Auburn Middle School was permitted two 16 square foot signs, each of which incorporated a “bulletin board” for announcements.  If the Planning Commission and/or Board of Supervisors has concerns about increasing the amount of signage to 80 square feet, staff has prepared an alternative amendment which would limit fire stations to 32 square feet but would legalize existing situations, making them non-conforming and requiring them to be replaced with conforming signs at new fire stations and within five years at existing fire stations.   This approach would allow fire companies to continue to utilize their existing signs for as along as five years (or other period established by the Board in the ordinance) while making sure that new signs are more consistent with the residential neighborhoods around them.  Staff has presented both approaches for the Board’s consideration, with the language for each shown below:

Alternative 1:  Increase signage to 80 square feet

C.        Notwithstanding the limitations set forth in 3A, above, any Fire Station shall be permitted a total of 80 square feet of signage.

Alternative 2:  Keep signage at 32 square feet but temporarily allow excess signage

C.        Notwithstanding the limitations set forth in 3A, above, any Fire Station with existing signage exceeding the 32 square foot limit as of January 1, 2008, whether or not legally permitted by the County, shall be allowed the additional signage until January 1, 2013 except that all signage shall be brought into conformance at such time as any new sign for a fire station is permitted by the County for such fire station.

Number of Freestanding Signs

A third issue identified from Staff’s survey of the existing signs at Stations relates to the number of freestanding signs.  Staff’s survey of the existing signage at Fire and Rescue Stations identified three Stations which had both a freestanding identification sign and a freestanding “bulletin board” sign (New Baltimore, Upperville, and Orlean), with a fourth Station utilizing a sign intermittently (Marshall Rescue).   While multiple freestanding signs are allowed in the rural and residential districts, all uses in commercial districts are permitted only a single freestanding sign.  Therefore, the third issue for the Planning Commission and Board’s consideration is whether or not multiple freestanding signs should be allowed for Stations.  While multiple signs would already be possible in the Rural and Residential districts, these signs would necessarily be smaller because of the absolute limit on square footage that now exists.  If the absolute limit is increased, the appropriateness of multiple signs on Rural and Residential parcels may also be an issue the Planning Commission and Board would like to address.

Staff has not included any proposed language to address this issue.  If the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors wish to increase the number of signs allowed for fire stations in Commercial Districts, changes must be made to a different section of the Zoning Ordinance.  Therefore, the item would need to be deferred so that this additional change could be properly advertised.

Process

This text amendment was initiated by the Board of Supervisors on December 13, 2007.  The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the issue on January 31, 2008, and recommended that neither signage option be implemented, but rather that the signage issue be addressed as part of the broader signage text amendment initiated by the Board of Supervisors last month.  Zoning Staff met with representatives from the various Volunteer Fire Companies at their monthly meeting in February to share the proposed amendments.   Fire Companies clearly prefer an alternative which would allow them to keep existing signage and which would not require any extra approval process for the additional signage.

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Fire Companies

 

Alternative 1:   Proposed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment

8-1401       3.   Identification Signs:

A.  Signage, not exceeding thirty two (32) square feet in area, for the purpose of showing the name and use of any lawful, non residential use within these districts for which other signage standards are not specifically set forth, when such signage is erected or displayed on the property.  In addition to displaying name and use, signage for public uses and schools, whether public or private, may also display information about activities and announcements.   Home occupations are not such uses qualifying under this subsection.  One sign not exceeding two (2) square feet in area shall be permitted for each single family home.  Height not to exceed ten (10) feet.

B.   Notwithstanding the foregoing, farm supply establishments in Agriculture Districts may, by special permit, increase their signage up to one hundred and fifty (150) square feet, but no more than thirty-two (32) square feet per sign provided they:  1) are located with direct access to a rural principal arterial; and 2) require additional signage for commercial or safety reasons arising out of restricted visibility of the business.  One such sign may be erected off premise, but within 100 feet, on property owned by the same entity in order to denote the entrance to the farm supply establishment.
 

Alternative 2:   Proposed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment

8-1401       3.   Identification Signs:

A.  Signage, not exceeding thirty two (32) square feet in area, for the purpose of showing the name and use of any lawful, non residential use within these districts for which other signage standards are not specifically set forth, when such signage is erected or displayed on the property.  In addition to displaying name and use, signage for public uses and schools, whether public or private, may also display information about activities and announcements.   Home occupations are not such uses qualifying under this subsection.  One sign not exceeding two (2) square feet in area shall be permitted for each single family home.  Height not to exceed ten (10) feet.

B.   Notwithstanding the foregoing, farm supply establishments in Agriculture Districts may, by special permit, increase their signage up to one hundred and fifty (150) square feet, but no more than thirty-two (32) square feet per sign provided they:  1) are located with direct access to a rural principal arterial; and 2) require additional signage for commercial or safety reasons arising out of restricted visibility of the business.  One such sign may be erected off premise, but within 100 feet, on property owned by the same entity in order to denote the entrance to the farm supply establishment.

C.   Notwithstanding the limitations set forth in 3A, above, any Fire Station with existing signage exceeding the 32 square foot limit as of January 1, 2008, whether or not legally permitted by the County, shall be allowed the additional signage until January 1, 2013 except that all signage shall be brought into conformance at such time as any new sign for a fire station is permitted by the County for such fire station.


 

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