• City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
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P&Z Minutes

April 2, 2013

The Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Cambridge met on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 305 Gay Street, Cambridge, Maryland.

Commissioners in Attendance: Jerry Burroughs, Chairman; Hubert Trego; Mary Losty and W. Marshall Rickert; William Craig, Joy Leoffler, Gage Thomas, Commissioner and Jackie Vickers, Commissioner

Others in attendance included: Anne Roane, City Planner; Robert S. Collison, City Attorney;
Chris Jakubiak and Dan Brandewie

Chairman Mr. Burroughs addressed all attending, "Planning and Zoning meeting please come to order. Before we start today I would like to make a statement to my fellow colleagues, to the public and everyone else. I attended a meeting last week with Ed McMann and a lot of the staff did also. During the session that I was in Mr. McMann brought up a lot of things that happened in the City or planning on for the future City that I thought that I had to speak to him about some of the things and accomplishments that we have made. I would like to say to each and every one of you I'm proud of you that you're here helping me, and supporting me, and supporting the City. Because 80% of what he spoke of we have accomplished through our architectural standards, traffic, parking, everything, ground mounted signs we have accomplished. And some Commissions have not got as far as we have now. So I would like to say congratulations to you all. Thank you for your help. Thanks to the City because we are working for you. And with that, we're having a work session tonight. I'm going to turn it over to Ms. Roane and Chris Jakubiak.

Ms. Roane spoke to the Commission, "Well, we are moving ahead with the zoning ordinance. Our goal is to try and have it adopted before the end of the fiscal year. We did hold meetings to look at the zoning map. Those meetings are extremely beneficial because we're able to have all those different eyes on it. We were able to identify properties that maybe needed to be addressed, or mistakes, before they go public. So once we finish up with the maps, we'll get Mr. Scott Shores to make those changes and we can then get it up on the Web so that the public can then look at them as well.

They also had asked Mr. Jakubiak to look at some real specific changes in our sign section of the ordinance. He has that tonight to go over. We had also talked at some point we realize that reducing, just having one residential zone was not really going to allow us to implement the Comprehensive Plan. In fact not recognizing the existing neighborhood conservation zones could be a real deterrent towards encouraging in-fill without larger minimum lot size. So we asked Mr. Jakubiak to re-introduce the NC zones which were developed. I think probably one of the most successful pieces of the current zoning ordinance that we have now that encourages compatible development within established communities. Mr. Shores who is our Department of Public Works GIS expert has been working on making those adjustments to the maps. I will be able to have large maps of those hopefully running into next week. I'm hoping to get all the Commissioners a full set of large-scale, individual maps based on our tax maps, which will make things easier to read.

While we're patting each other on the back, I gave you a copy of the implementation piece of the Wood Act report. And there was a pretty impressive, aggressive implementation schedule with very specific action items, 38 action items. While reviewing this sustainable communities designation application, I was astounded to realize that we've accomplished or have in progress 28 of those action items, which I think is an incredible statistic for a community of our size with limited resources. On the other hand, it's due to the dedication of commissions like this and community involvement that this kind of impressive progress is able to be made."

Mr. Chris Jakubiak addressed the Commission, we're going to talk about signs tonight. The last time we met it was a major topic of discussion and we wanted to see revisions with respect to signs and especially out on Route 50. Most of the changes we see in the draft tonight are addressing Route 50 signs. What you have there is the section pulled out of the draft ordinance. I wanted to take you all through the ordinance to see if you have any questions about staff and this discussion as well. I would like to talk to you a little about permitting uses within the various sub-districts that we spoke of the downtown development district it's off-topic discussion but, as well.

This is one of the most important things about the ordinance. The Comprehensive Plan calls for changing the zoning standards with respect to signs. Route 50 especially it's one of the major recommendations and it states pretty clearly that things need to change to deal with the clutter of signage.

On the first page, purpose statements, purpose and applicability, 6.5.1 A-4, preserve and protect the aesthetic and historic quality of the community. Rather than enhance, protect is the public policy reason why we regulate signs, to protect that aesthetic historic quality throughout the town. The next page, change the zoning, history of the Zoning Official. Change I've been making throughout the document.

Beginning on page 2, the language begins to discuss the administration. How is it that we administer the zoning code about the signs? There are simply two ways.
• One's a Sign Permit, someone's going to build a sign, and they need to get a permit in most cases from the Zoning Officer.

• The other approach is Sign Program. When there is a project that has a multiple users business park, where large multi-family type of structure, apartment complex, industrial park or shopping center, they are eligible to obtain a sign program from you.

So when you approve the site plan, you will approve the Sign Program as well. If you can imagine seeing the architectural elevations of all the stores in the shopping center, they will show where on the building facades the signs should go. By approving that you have determined where the signs are going to go. So the owner can change out the sign every time the store changes or goes out of business. So, long as the sign goes back in the same spot we're fine. We'll also be able to stipulate the area of the signage, be able to give some flexibility to that development site that they wouldn't have if they came in for an individual Sign Permit. That discussion will become clear as we go through the document.

On page three the Sign Programs, shall be required for any multiple-occupancy commercial, professional, industrial, residential, institutional site that meets the following site criteria. The size has to be at least one acre, road frontage at least 100 feet, and the development has to be at least 10,000 square feet. Meeting those requirements, you will require that a Sign Program be entered into the site plan. They are almost saying that if an existing, non-conforming shopping center wants to take advantage of the flexibility of a Sign Program by virtue of that, bring their signs to the format of the code. They can come in for a Sign Program and get comments and updating the signs, if they want to take advantage of it. So items two, three and four, just talk a little bit about what the Sign Program is.

We're talking about 6.5.3 which is Prohibited Signs. And the way that this is different from the current codes, signs that are prohibited in relation to this location, relation to the character of the signs, and in relation to issues like safety, condition of sign and neglect. All this has been in the code or the draft for some time. On 6.5.4 there are signs that are permitted without a permit. You do not need a permit for every sign.

Since we met last time, the Commission has formed a task force and had a special work session on this very topic on billboards and I haven't seen that language yet. I want to make a note there to remind myself to get that information."

Ms. Roane responded to Mr. Jakubiak that Mr. Collison has presented some proposed language and there were some recommendations from the Commission as well. Mr. Collison was going to incorporate those changes and rewrite it. He will send it to me and to you and I'll circulate it to the rest of the Commission. This will address those changes.

Mr. Jakubiak continued, "6.5.4 Signs Permitted without Permit would be for official signs, governmental signs or temporary signs generally are not required to have a permit. The downtown waterfront district, order of mixed use district, and the general commercial, industrial districts, you're not required to have a permit to do an A-frame or a sandwich-board sign in front of the store provided you meet those conditions that are established here. In the core or mixed use district, a general commercial district, and the industrial districts, a sign associated with opening the development is allowed without a permit provided it's no greater than 100 square feet in size and no taller than 8 feet in height and is removed every six months. Number 6.5.4 A-6 in the NC districts into the residential, institutional, downtown waterfront, open space, resource, conservation districts, and one sign associated with the opening development, but in this case it can't be any larger than 32 square feet. So it's a residential zone, you're going to open a church or a new apartment complex you can have a grand opening type of sign at 32 feet as the maximum."

 What's the time period on it is it for up to one year?

Yes. A subdivision off the road, the sign stays up quite a bit longer. The dedication of a road is a major milestone in completing the project. Either the dedication associated with public roads or utilities are one year.

 If it has been four months you dedicate the streets do you have to take the sign down?

Sometimes the projects take a while. So if it expires after one year the applicant can come in and take it out for another year.

 So how would you handle a sign if it is a project that is being done in phases, such as for instance a subdivision, but had the economy not tanked, phase one would have been completed and then they would have moved on to phase two.

 Sign maintenance. Sometimes the signs are out there so long, and they're not expensive signs because that's the way the developer wants it, and they're all faded.

After that year expires they will need a permit. In that case Ms. Roane or Mr. Brandewie can say sure, but repair the sign. Bring it up to standards. And you've got another year if you keep it on the program.

This ought to be covered under the City's property maintenance.

 We can have a section in here that says that these signs have to conform to this general code.

That is in section 6.5.5 General Sign Standards. They're talking about height and area.

The Planning Commission has the flexibility to handle more than one phase time improving, subdivision plan. Ms. Roane has the leeway within her jurisdiction as the Zoning Officer.

To continue with other signs allowed without permit, affordable signs, they are no way permanently fixed or installed; it's in the ground or on the structure as long as the following conditions are met. In other words you can put a sign out in your front yard. Provided it's no greater than four square feet in area. As long as the sign says political. So it just simply limits the size and location of the sign. The sign could be political or apolitical.

 What is the timeframe on it?

There's no timeframe on those types of signs. Anybody can have a sign in their front yard, on their property.

 Rolling signs. Ones that have wheels on them and they're pulled on a trailer and then they are propped up and the owner can change the message boards.

In the current code for portable signs that Mr. Burroughs was talking about which has a 30 day limit. Of course this something we need to be more aggressive in enforcing i.e. on Washington Street. By virtue of being on wheels they're meant to be temporary. They're not meant to be permanent. But in these cases they've become permanent signs. It is commercial businesses with these sign.

Their total signage would be capped at a certain area. It might work out to be 50 square feet would be how much signage they're allowed. The concern is that in these commercial districts or any district that have these portable signs they are become permanent. We're going to make sure that they're not permanent especially if there's no timeframe in the ordinance now. If we don't put a timeframe they can stay there.

If the sign is located in compliance with the ordinance and is set back the way it should be and it's sized properly, the sign is okay.

The smaller portable signs should be two by two square feet. It's basically to allow any property owner some right to speech with the property without having to speech, without having to get a permit. So your contract to put a sign up as sure as your neighbor can put a sign up stating a political point of view here. As sure as the next guy can put a for sale sign up, there's portable signs you can pick up and move. And the ordinance is completely content neutral about that.

Commemorative plaques also do not require permits. Interior signs don't require permits. Street number, address or name on a building doesn't. On-site directional signs or notices, official on-site legal notice signs, permanent historic markers approved by the HPC.

Mr. Brandewie addressed the Commission with, "I had an excellent conversation with one of the police officers recently and they were talking about crime, safety, and efforts to go around to some of the commercial establishments and talk about ways to improve their commercial property, particularly convenient stores and the problems we see with things and conditions associated with the side of the building. One of the comments he made was you've got window signs plastered all over the building. You cannot see in the building and the Police need to see in the building. The clerks need to see out the building if they see a situation developing and the suggestion that that height be potentially regulated such as no higher than three feet from the ground level as measured by the window height etc., etc. I thought it was a very excellent point. We see a lot of beer signs and so on and so forth plastered all over the windows and you really can't see inside the windows. I really think it's an area that it might be time to think about it especially window signs. Another question is how we regulate the wall signs. Maybe it is regulated in here, particularly the beer signs plastered all over the wall and stores."

• Isn't that noted somewhere?
Section 6.5.4 number 15 says to regulate the windows of no more than 50% of the
window area, the area of window signs shall be included in the maximum allowable
sign.

Mr. Collison commented that with what Mr. Brandewie suggested we may want to increase the 50% standard and add a height limitation. Instead he would like to reduce the percent so you could say no more than 30%.

• Section 6.5.4 number 15B assuming we change signing to signage, it says the area of window signage shall be included in the count of maximum allowable sign area and sign number for the site.
A section of this code that says how much total sign area you can have. So if you are
allowed to have 30 square feet total and you put a sign in the window that cuts into your allowed signage. If your window signs or light signs take you over your allotment
remove them. You are in violation.

Mr. Jakubiak continues with the key issue here is sign area. I see no such sign shall be an internally lighted sign. So you can have an open for business sign in neon in your window unless you obtain a permit because this is the section that allows you to put signs in without getting a permit. I would say also that we should preface item 15 by saying in nonresidential districts only. I don't think we want to encourage residential properties to put signs in the windows. One sign on the front lawn is okay. On the other hand there's only so much leniency we want to give to the expression of free speech. At some point it intrudes on the character of the neighborhood. So even though you can put a sign up, certain signs, without going through the administrative permitting process, you still have to apply to the zoning ordinance. You can't put up any sign willy-nilly, you still have to meet the code and Anne can still enforce regulations against the non-permitted signs.

Section 6.5.5 General Sign Standards. The measure requirements provided in this section represent the maximum sign or area distance allowed. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to imply to these regulations confer a right to the maximum. Section 6.5.5 B-2, the measurement of the area of the sign shall be based on the entire area of the sign with continuous perimeter enclosing the extreme limits of the sign surface. A lot of times when we measure the area of that sign we'll measure it to include just the area of the words, the language or symbols. The sign itself may be quite big, but it's just all blank space. You have the ability to put what you want on that sign area but it's not, you're not going to make a big billboard and put your small message in it and then get your two square feet there and your five square feet here.

• So you're talking about a flat surface.
The surface of the sign is the field plus the letters. Now if it's a sign attached to a wall
the letters or name is attached to a wall, then you measure the area by just drawing a
perimeter around it. Just letters, you don't have to measure the entire wall, just measure
the letters or symbol.

• What if they put say a 4 by sheet of plywood on the wall and then just put four square feet of letters.
That's a 32 square foot sign.

Mr. Jakubiak continued that section B, was gotten this from the Town of Easton's zoning ordinance with respect to signs. I changed the wording I think a little bit but it's basically the same. When a sign consists of two or more faces, the area of all faces shall be included in the area, except when the two faces are back to back. That's simply is counted as one area, one sign. If it's a triangle sign, or a big wide sign with multiple... a big square that sits up there, then we're going to count the entire area. A typical sign is one you see along the highway, we're going to count the area.

Number 2 is on the height of a sign. He added this too, that height is measured from the ground to the top of the sign prior to construction. You can't build a big mound and then put the sign on top of it. The height is the height. You can stand next to it in the parking lot and we're going to measure the height. Number 3 is on Site Visibility. He added something here based mostly on a little bit of what Mr. Rickert was referring to. That would be a site visibility triangle determined appropriate for the site by the City engineer upon request from the Planning Commission or Zoning Official shall be kept free of obstructions to vision. It occurred to me that I might not even have these specific items like 2½ feet, maybe it would simply allow Mr. Hyde to offer an opinion about what the proper site visibility is. Are you familiar with these site visibility triangles, intersections?

o If you've got a 90° corner and you put a line across.

o If you come to an intersection and you've got a business on that corner and they want to put a sign on the corner you have to be able to look past it so you want the sign to be behind that 45° angle that sideline.

That applies; you know they have a different area. A public intersection section that is going to have a much wider protective zone. If you drive in you make a left hand turn you would not be able to see. In a driveway intersection off of Route 50, which you will have a much smaller cone of visibility. So, if you feel that there is a sight visibility issue, have the City engineer make a determination. Refer it to him. And I think as a matter of course when site plans come in with signs Anne will simply have the City engineer review that.

Section 6.5.6 Standards Specific to the Residential Districts, then we're going to talk about standards in civic to the non-residential districts. All signs permitted in the NC districts, the residential district and the neighborhood and gateway sub-districts of the downtown waterfront zone district shall be limited by the following. We've broken it out by public open spaces, institutional uses, public assembly, townhouse and multi-family uses. Here the maximum sign area would be 32 square feet. Maximum height is six feet except a wall sign may be eight feet tall. Again all this has already been drafted but maximum distance from any other zoning lot is eight feet. So the sign can't be right on the property line.

Item B is subdivision or community entrance signs. So the maximum height of a subdivision's entrance sign is six feet. Also for home occupation, home daycare, bed and breakfasts uses. One free-standing sign per lot is permitted but it can't be greater than four square feet. It has to be at least ten feet from the adjoining property line.

Mr. G. Thomas asked the Chairman about addressing Illumination / Lighting of Sign in regards to electronic message boards. We talked about freedom of speech; we want an ordinance that is consistent. He would like to come back to these electronic message boards as it currently states you can only have one color. When you paint a sign you have a multitude of colors to choose from. When you have a paper sign you can have a multitude of colors. You can have a skin on a sign with multi-colors. Why is our ordinance only allowing one color? He is just talking about more than one color. Another possible thing is he is not sure why graphics are exclusive. If you have a business with an electronic board sign with a logo, why only one color and why no graphics? He understands the animation. He hadn't heard a reasonable explanation why. Also the billboards you're going to allow and what's currently existing is multi-colors.

Mr. Craig responded to Mr. Thomas, "There's a difference between a static sign that has to say two, three or four colors and an electronic sign that has several colors. I see a difference.

Gage Thomas commented, "Well it says intensity of speed which says it can change. There should not be any restrictions like there is no restriction on any other signs."

Ms. Roane responded that there were a couple of signs like The Bank at Eastern Shore sign on the corner of Crusader and that the intensity of speed and message was a question. The sign said the time and temperature and then it would have some other message. The Preston Ford sign on Route 16 across from Walmart was another one in question. Their message flashed and changed. There was more than one message.

Mr. Jakubiak stated that a message board can be a free standing sign. Had a sign you place in front of your business be a monument sign.

o An example of a sign recently questioned to get a permit was Kool Ice about their $40,000 sign. Because they want to put up the day's specials and they may have a top for it, maybe a plastic back-lit.

Is it possible that in the future the signs we have, as you drive through the corridor may look like a series of TV sets flashing at you as you go down Route 50? If everyone had an electronic message board it would be pretty difficult for a driver to stay focused. The beauty of those signs, they really attract your attention, you can't not look at the signs.

It seems like whoever wrote this standard we just took it without even changing everything. We haven't thought much about it but it seems like someone thought that they wanted to limit the effect of these boards. You treat them much like a standard sign. We're not restricting their uses so much as simply saying they have to choose. If you want lots of colors then you have a static sign that doesn't change.

• That was part of the concern. Then the safety issue as well. And so...

We think it's the electronic board, their lights that produce the representation not a medium. It's not paper.

Mr. Gage Thomas questioned, "We were talking about controlling the illumination and intensity you can't have it above certain brightness. And maybe you can't, you can change the sign, change the message for the day but it's not like sitting there and constantly changing."

Mr. Craig replied, "Actually I'm not in favor of a free and easy electronic sign ordinance, but there might be another way to deal with this. I don't know, rather than a blanket prohibition on certain things. Whether it's appropriate given the area, given the size and given the intensities and so on and all that stuff we'll evaluate, can you have that sign or not."

Gage Thomas also questioned, "Yes, if somebody wants static or allow more flexibility, I'm thinking certainly about any color he wants to create the message, its static. What difference does it make?"

More comments on this discussion were:
• Is there any way to write section that says it requires a Planning Commission approval which would be, and any approval would be based on a specific proposal that with findings as fact as to where you want to put it and all that stuff.

• It tends to make it subjective if it is planned to have the Planning Commission to approve it. Then you have people, say you did it for Joe, and they don't consider all the aspects. They consider just what you permitted. So this is always trying to be kind of the one size fits and many things as possible. I kind of agree as far as graphics on the logo would be permissible. And when this was developed graphics and/or animation, I think they had more of the animation or pictures rather than logos. (Ms. Leoffler)

• A concern, is the colors, the amount of colors, or is it the flashing and the intensity? It's just a more vivid billboard sign or just a more vivid sign. It's not flashing or changing. It's just a sign.

Mr. Jakubiak commented to the discussion, "It may be that you would consider that making electronic board sign smaller than an average free-standing sign, because of the potential impact it might have especially at night time. That's something you would consider when you review the project. You'd make that determination. The amount of light generated by that at that location is dangerous and maybe at location and dim it down, you can't do that, or maybe it has to be smaller. I think those are all reasonable conditions to place on an approval."

Mr. Collison responded that, "I think we need some standards because otherwise we'd be too vague and you'd get subjectivity, in which case you don't have equal protection. You'd have equal protection issues. What's going to be critical is this Commission doing these finding of facts and articulating clearly why one was approved and one not, based on some objective criteria."

Mr. Jakubiak will get some criteria. And among the things that will be considered will be these concerns. If you have a limited number of colors he will write it so that it is the change information.
So now we're talking about commercial, industrial districts principally. Only one free-standing sign is permitted per site and an approved Sign Program. However, provide for an additional free-standing sign when a lot exceeds five acres in size or is greater than two acres and has two public street frontages. Bigger lots at the corner, you might allow two signs. Free-standing signs shall not be located within parking lots. There are examples where you have free-standing signs right in the middle of the parking lot.

Comments concerning this were:
• They would have to move it back in order to meet the setback off the highway, so you actually took two parking spaces; there are going to have to do a landscape area for two parking spaces. So they were up two spaces but it is still part of the parking lot.

Free-standing signs actually shall not be located in the parking lot. The area of a free-standing sign shall not exceed 32 square feet and that's 4 x 8. Such signs shall be placed on a continuous base that is at least as wide as the horizontal width of the sign it supports. So no pedestal signs allowed. The sign is going to feel like it's anchored to the ground with this standard. The base of all free-standing signs shall be set back a minimum of ten feet from any property line. That includes the front property line. Is that a standard now?

• It depends on the zone if it is 25 feet and it meets the proposed building setbacks.

• What this would do is allow the signs, smaller signs than currently exist, be up closer to the road. So they're more visible as ground mounted.

Provided of course they're not interfering with the sight distance that you come in. You might think that's impossible, how you can get these monument signs in Route 50 and still allow people to come in and out. But you can. The pattern on the old part of Route 50 is much smaller than Easton's. That's why Easton's able to do these nice signs and the buildings are set back much further. There's a lot of open space, but there are places in Easton where new businesses have happened. They've built the signs perfectly they're right up on the road and they work fine. So we have to remember that this highway is posted at 35 miles an hour and it's not posted as a high speed corridor. When you start doing that the site triangle gets smaller, it makes more sense. You can get the turning rate and still not impede visibility. The signs will be pole in the ground, ground mounted and you allow them to get up to ten feet from the right-of-way to Route 50. A landscaped area equivalent to the area of each side of a free-standing sign shall be maintained by the permit holder. You cannot put the sign right in the middle of the concrete, has to be in a landscaped area kind of what you talked about earlier. Free-standing signs shall not exceed the maximum height of eight feet.

Ms. Roane spoke as she thought the Commission was very concerned that the height of the signs be lower. We've gotten lower signs on Route 50, only through the cooperation and willingness of the applicant. The only time that this Commission has been challenged was just recently on that.

Mr. Jakubiak continued that if you were in Hurlock and was looking for a place to grab a burger. So, but lots, but when you have a commercial lot that abuts an NC district or a residential district for instance then the lot has to be treated differently and the sign has to be no taller than six feet. That's not the case where you might have a commercial lot on Route 16 that borders residential property on the back of it. The front you share frontage with.

So number four, I gave a little nod to the possibility for taller signs and bigger signage. So basically if you have to put your sign 50 feet back from the roadway it can be ten feet tall and 50 square feet.

• Where would that happen?
A shopping center.

It's just not an individual coming to you and saying I want to take advantage of the possibility of a bigger sign. It's something that comes to the Planning Commission and they do a Sign Program and say sure you can have a bigger sign than you otherwise would have, but now's the time to bring your signs into conformance with the Zoning Ordinance. I don't know if it would be extremely effective but I want to get a project to get redeveloped, for economic development in the City. Maybe bigger signs are necessary because the whole building has to sit further from the road. It wouldn't be so bad to have a bigger sign out there, the new landscaped area. So now is the chance to clean up the site with new signage that applies with the ordinance.

• Are we talking pretty much exclusively about the state highways within the city, in other words 50 and 16 or are we talking other areas?
In this case, we're just talking about Route 50 or industrial districts where the size of the
sign is not going to impact things very much. So we're really talking about frontage on
Route 50.

I think that having buildings up on the highway would work fine with parking inside. This just provides some flexibility. Maybe provide some incentives to change out the old pole sign for something else.

This addresses for instance a bigger parcel of land where you might have the possibility of a better sign located, further removed from the highway. And therefore it needs to be taller to achieve the same type of signage. It's just a concession to flexibility in the Planning Commission, and developers the ability to offer a different approach. So you will only be able to do this for a Sign Program. That would be for a shopping center, for a multi-use building site that was met the criteria, would have to have at least 100 feet of road frontage.

o Maybe if somebody has a 45 foot sign out there and wants to replace it is there something in here that allows us to say no you have to bring your sign into conformance?
Yes

So let's go to The Maximum Allowable Sign Area, this area for all signs on the site shall be computed as follows. Every site gets a certain amount of signs that it can use almost any way they want. They have a big wall sign or they have a big free-standing sign, two small ones and then a couple of window signs, a marque sign up or even temporary signs. But all the signs count towards the total. I think that there are some areas in the City that probably can have a little more signs than others. There are also some lots that are pretty small and of you had a standard like one square foot of signage for every one foot of building width. Those little lots wouldn't have much signage to work with, whereas the big lots would have a ton of signs. And your current code says of 300 square feet. That's a lot of signage. So I reduced that substantially.

So let's start with Section 6.5.7 D-1-item a, within the core, general and center, these are the sub-districts that have mixed use commercial elements. The littlest of one square foot per linear building frontage on the public street or 50 square feet, let's just pause there. The amount of signage you get depends on frontage you have, not on the lot frontage but the building. If you have a small building frontage only 30 square feet facing the street you get 30 square feet.

Except where additional sign areas specifically authorized by the HPC, or in the case of where a sign program is approved by the Planning Commission. The HPC notation is not something I can feel very confident about, but I wanted to put it in here knowing that we're just discussing it. It occurred to me that in the downtown Historic District there are some signs that we don't make nonconforming because they are part of the historic character of the City. I can't think of any right now but I know that some buildings have the name of the building on them and have pattern signage that has been here forever even though there's a new tenant or a new owner. And you have small lots. So I thought that maybe the HPC could essentially allow more than the standard if it found that it met their standards. That's why I sought to provide here because it's not very clear.

Section 6.5.7 D-1 item b, for lots with frontage onto Route 50, for the Industrial zone, 1.25 square feet per linear building frontage up to a maximum allowable of area of 150 square feet. It used to be one foot per up to 300... Except that when you're in a corner you also get a half square foot for that side street. You have to use that square footage as such, you can't take that and put it up on the front and make a bigger wall sign. Item C is much like the standard in the current draft except that I dropped from 300 to 100. One square foot per linear building frontage on a public street up to a maximum area of 100 square feet except that each additional square footage, except I still have a side street and do a half a square foot. So that would apply on commercial property elsewhere off of Route 50.

• This is where window signs come into play?
It is part of those 100 square feet.

• So if you do the calculation and get to where you can have 150 square foot sign, one 150 square foot sign or two 75 square foot signs. Is that what I'm hearing?
No, that wouldn't ever be allowed. But that would be the total area that you could
allocate in various ways.

So maybe one of the standards you can have is a 50 foot, free-standing sign out in the landscaped area, Walmart owns a big deal. Then you have another 100 square feet that you can allocate. You can put the big Walmart logo and sign on a window or on the façade of the building. Then you've got say another 25 square feet to allocate around the site for sales specials today, here's our digital flashing sign sales.

One free-standing sign, unless it is a big site that has about five acres or if it is at an intersection and is at least two acres in size. It might have a side street that you can approve two free-standing signs if you want to. You might approve one big sign and then one small free-standing sign. You might approve one directory sign of all the businesses in the shopping center and then one sign for a restaurant.

We have a standard about wall sizes of signs too. It may be if you didn't want to do a free-standing sign, you would have extra signage allowed to you that you would not be able to use.

They would have come in for a renovation like they just did.

Section 6.5.7 D item 3 and 4, at the bottom, shopping centers, industrial parks, office parks and other developments that qualify for a Sign Program approval may be exempted from the maximum sign area limitation of section 6.5.7, provided the Planning Commission has approved the Sign Program any shopping center, industrial park, also parking system prior to the date of the adoption of this ordinance may apply in writing to the Planning Commission for approval of the Sign Program. The first part of that gives the Planning Commission the ability to recognize the special needs of the big sites.

Free-standing or the total area to be used the way they want if approved. There's a maximum free-standing sign that is allowed. The Walmart sign, the free-standing sign that is out there would not be permitted in the future. You might say for Kmart, they can have two signs because it's such a big site.

So the simple part of that item 4, I say that any shopping center for instance may apply right to the Planning Commission for approval of a sign program. In which case, the approval should provide a schedule for bringing the non-conforming signs into conformance with this section within three years. Why would anybody do that? Maybe some big shopping center out there realizes that the size they have now is outdated. And they'd like to come in and get it all comprehensively approved. They want to take advantage of the flexibilities in the Code. They can do that and they can have approval up front as they move forward.

Special standards by sign type built in Section 6.5.7 F-1-a. No single wall-mounted sign shall exceed 30 square feet in area except that on lots with frontage on Route 50 or the Industrial district the maximum area of a wall-mounted sign shall be computed as one square foot per building frontage up to a maximum of 60 square feet.

Section 6.5.8 will deal with Standard Specific to the Historic Preservation Overlay District. Section 6.5.9-A deals with the fact that the Zoning Official will enforce the Ordinance and Non-Conforming Signs can continue, but I wanted... I highlighted this at the last meeting when we talked about signs in response to a question by Marshall and I wanted to bring that to your attention again just so you're... I don't know if you are bored with it or not. On page 16, section 6.5.9-B2. For those folks who don't have a copy of the plan I'll just read it. "Under this section a sign is inseparable from and intrinsically a part of the land use and activity of the property on which it is located. Therefore no site plan for any property shall be approved unless it provides that all existing non-conforming sites and new signs are made to conform to the provisions of this section." Now this prevents what you often see and that's... maybe it didn't happen at McDonalds here in Cambridge but it's happened in many places where they build a new store and change the circulation completely disturb the site, building on the site. Meantime there's this pole that sticks up there that's 30 feet tall in the air and they've done all this construction and kept the sign there and then just put a new modern sign on that pole. And then you never... you've postponed the replacement of that sign for another 40 years. You never get closer to the goal of de-cluttering and getting signs closer to the ground. This has happened in Easton and other locations. You can travel up the highway and see new buildings, new development, and new gas stations and still have a pole sign sticking out there. It looks so out of character with the architecture. So anyway I think there's a basis for regulating in this way, and I encourage you to consider this section.

Ms. Roane commented that, "What it does mean is if McDonalds... once again, I'm not picking on them because they worked very well with the Commission and the City on the redevelopment of their property. We would have been able to get a ground mounted sign... we did ask for it, we asked for them to remove the pedestal, the pole and give us a ground-mounted sign. They compromised by reducing the height significantly and the size of the face of the... but that would have given us the ability to get all the signs ground-mounted, for example."

Mr. Jakubiak continued with, "Section 6.5.10 item A deals with the Zoning Official may administratively adjust certain parts of the sign regulations just like the administrative adjustment authority that is drafted now dealing with setbacks and other issues. If Ms. Roane finds that it makes sense to allow a little bit of an increase in allowable height or the distance of a permitted projection wave of a building or a setback of the sign. I think the standard is 10% I came up with. 10% is not a lot, it is under a foot, possible increase in height if it's necessary."

Mr. Collison informed the Commission that maybe if we run into issues in which a sign obviously is like an accessory to the primary use and where the primary use has ceased to exist for a period of time. Maybe we should provide in here that the owner shall remove the sign and the prior sign structures where the primary use is no longer in use. Mr. Jakubiak agreed with this statement and we need to make it stronger. Mr. Collison will get some language together after looking through some case files that we need to define abandonment in this cessation of the use for 90 days or some computed time.

A business owner wants to sell it, picks it up and sells it to them. Well if someone wants to buy it because they maybe liked the sign. But they did it within a period of time where it wasn't sitting there empty for six months.

Discussion about the Spicer' Restaurant sign.
o That's not a conforming sign.
Okay, that's the difference.

o What if it was an electronic sign? The next owner is going to put his name up there instead.
The business has been vacated for 90 days.

o That's why we have to say the structure of the thing because most businesses they go out of business they'll remove their sign. They don't want their name on a vacant building and so on. But they'll leave the pole and the other stuff there. Well I'm thinking we want it all down.

Ms. Roane commented "That's what our current code says. In fact it says any property owner within the corporate limits of the City of Cambridge where business has ceased or has terminated shall be responsible for the removal of all signs, posts and standards and the building and ground shall be restored to their original condition within 30 days after notification by the Zoning Official of the City of Cambridge. It took years to get the old Popeye's to remove the sign. Sure, they took the face off the sign but just left the structure itself."

o It took us years to get that out.

o We never did get the Wendy's sign out and that was part of the confusion with the new Popeye's was they were going to use that old Wendy's structure.

Ms. Roane comment "Right. We didn't push it because they kept saying Popeye's is coming and we thought that with our Commission's success in getting these other ground-mounted signs, either it be Burger King or Verizon that we would have the same success and we didn't. That's why we didn't push for them to go and remove that because we knew that there was something else coming."

o What looks worse, no signs at all versus a building with a sign that just says closing.

o The old Popeye's, the removal of that sign has changed the way that center looks to me, the entrance of it.

o They took away the face of the sign therefore it's not a sign any more it's a structure.

o But they got rid of all of it. They even went back and took down the directional signs, so people have to put pedestals. It made a tremendous difference.

o What were the results of the, Board of Zoning Appeals for Popeye's.
They got six months. It's less than a year, it's November 2013.

o Anyone in business if they bought the Spicer's property wouldn't be able to use the sign the way it is anyway. So it's just an obstruction, a dysfunctional sign.

o If you drive down Route 50 you do not see that sign. One on the building would be so much more effective.

o The height of that sign, if you were on Interstate 95 or something.

o How about Dunkin Donuts. They've got that little sign. That used to be where they announced specials.

Mr. Burroughs asked Mr. Roane about, "What was the answer on the tires barrels?" Ms. Roane stated, "Honestly Jerry, I have not sent them a letter yet."

Mrs. Roane announced that at our next meeting which is scheduled for the April 16th but we have nothing on the agenda. Do we want to keep moving through this? Mr. Jakubiak needs to have the maps and we can continue this work session.

Mr. Jakubiak will at the next meeting hand out copies of the proposed table of permitted uses for the downtown development district. When we have the maps here and lighten the discussion. In the meantime we have a copy of these and you can at least familiarize yourselves with the districts again and how it is that you land use is needed or not.

Mr. Burroughs asked for a motion to adjourn which was moved by Mr. Trego and second by Mr. Collison. All those in favor say aye.

 


Note: These minutes were approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on ???????????

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Jerry Burroughs, Chairman Date