By ALICIA LEONARD
The DeFuniak Springs City Council held a sign workshop the evening of Nov. 18. The workshop was well-attended by local business owners. The workshop mainly covered three items of interest, billboards, ground signs and information/directory signs. DeFuniak Springs City Planner Greg Schoville, went over clarification in wording and the “tidying up” of present code with the Council, after receiving input from the Council in the last two workshops.
Billboards or off-premise signs were up first for discussion. The Council suggested preferences in the prior workshops to change the code provision for billboards including, those affecting height, square footage, spacing (or proximity of billboards to each other) and location. The suggestions of the Council included, the height of any new off-premise signs within 50 feet of the Interstate 10 right-of-way to not exceed 40 feet in height and the lowest projection for said sign shall be seven feet above the average natural grade at the base of the sign. Signs located in other areas are recommended not to exceed 20 feet in height (from the prior 40 feet length), or over 200 hundred square feet in area and the lowest projection for said sign shall not be three feet above the undisturbed average grade at the base of the sign. Existing off-premise signs would be allowed to remain subject to the structural soundness of those signs.
The next issue to be addressed was the Council-preferred option to change the code provisions allowing more than one ground sign under certain conditions, such as a parcel on a corner of two streets, or size of a parcel’s frontage on one street. Another suggested modification was that two ground signs could not exceed 64 square feet of total area and the two must be spaced a minimum of 200 feet from each apart as measured along the most direct line between the signs, which means only large stores with spacious lots could qualify for the two ground signs. An additional suggestion was that new ground signs not exceed 20 feet in height (from the prior 40).
For signs in C-2 districts, the suggested changes by staff were that two ground signs may not exceed 500 square feet (from the prior 1,000), where the lot or parcel has a minimum of 200 linear front feet on at least two street frontages. Only one ground sign is permissible per street frontage. New ground signs may not exceed 20 feet height above the ground. This, according to Schoville (limits to 20 feet for on-premise) is to bring the signs “into scale that is more compatible amid consistent with the majority of the associated structures on the same parcel and to help reduce the disparity between possible height variations.”
Schoville reminded the Council that these changes were only pertaining to new signs and that they were only suggestions. Kim Kirby, Defuniak Springs city manager, concurred and said, “All of these suggestions are drawn from prior public meetings and discussions during workshops.”
Way-finding signage was next to be discussed and the conclusion in Schoville address to the Council was, “The city already has the authority to erect signs indicating the location of, or directions to, locations or businesses. Aside from the design or appearance, the apparent question seems to be more about how to establish a fair and equitable signage scheme and location for such signs should it be the Council’s desire to implement them,” Schoville wrote in his address to the Council.
Audience members asked the Council questions that ranged from request for the Council to meet business owners half-way to why the annual Christmas Reflections was allowed to use temporary signs along roadways, yet business owners were not.
Council member James Coffied said, “I thought we were supposed to be helping business in our town, not making it harder on them.”
Other Council members were concerned whether the new code suggestions would limit new businesses coming into the area, possibly causing a raise in variance requests and if the Council was going to agree to hold fast to the code suggestion, should they decide to approve them.
The Council agreed to hold more workshops to discuss the issue. The next workshop will be scheduled in Jan. 09. All workshops are open to the public.