By DOTTY NIST
Set to come before county commissioners are proposed ordinances that would allow businesses to use sandwich board signs and, with conditions, reverse a scenic corridor prohibition on outdoor display of merchandise.
A number of separate ordinances are involved in connection with the two issues. Draft ordinances on these topics have made the rounds with county boards and the planning department and will be coming before the Walton County Board of County Commissioners at its May 20 special meeting for a determination. There have been changes to the proposed measures since they were originally drafted.
One of the ordinances applies to the U.S. 98/U.S. 331 Scenic Corridor. Currently, unscreened outdoor display of merchandise is prohibited along this corridor, with the exception of live plants. The proposed U.S. 98/331 Scenic Corridor Outdoor Display Ordinance would allow merchandise displays under some conditions, among which would be the issuance of a county outdoor display area permit by Walton County Planning and Development Services.
Other conditions would include that the display would be in conjunction with an existing permitted use of property owned and leased by a business occupying the area where the display would be placed, that the merchandise would be placed under a “permanent arcade, porch or canopy structure that is part of the front facade of a building,” that the display would not create an unsafe condition, violate federal or state accessibility standards, or be located closer than five feet from any public entrance.
Boxes, crates, or shipping containers would not be allowed in outdoor display areas.
The proposed ordinance provides that new structures to house displays would require approval by the Walton County Scenic Corridor Design Review Board before being constructed.
After the effective date of the ordinance, new structures to house displays would be limited to three feet by 12 feet.
The allowable outside display area could not exceed 40 percent of the total square footage of the permanent arcade, porch or canopy structure, nor exceed 120 square feet of total outdoor display area. An outdoor display area would be limited to not more than 75 square feet of contiguous space. Each display would also be limited to no more than 15 feet in length, five feet in width and seven feet in height, with no more than two individual display areas for one store.
Outdoor displays would not be allowed to contain “any moving parts, devices, or exhibits” and would be required to be situated on “a hard durable surface such as concrete.” Any vending, ice and other machines, along with propane gas tanks and fire wood, which are located outside a business would be required to be placed within the permitted display area.
Legally-permitted fuel pumps and newspaper racks would be exempt from the terms of the ordinance. Exemptions would include seasonal displays such as Christmas trees and pumpkin patches, which would be allowed between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1 through a separate temporary use permit.
Several additional ordinances to be considered would apply, respectively, to sandwich board signs on the CR-30A and Scenic Gulf Drive scenic corridors, on the U.S. 98/U.S. 331 Scenic Corridor, and on non-scenic corridor county roads in the remainder of Walton County.
Previously the indication from the county planning department had been that sandwich board signs were not prohibited from county roads other than the scenic corridors. However, according to Wayne Dyess, county planning director, these signs are not currently permitted on any county roads.
Revisions to allow sandwich board signs are proposed for addition to signage ordinances applying, respectively, to the CR-30A and Scenic Gulf Drive scenic corridors, the U.S. 98/U.S. 331 Scenic Corridor, and the remainder of the county roads. The terms of these proposals mirror each other.
Under the proposed terms, total area for sandwich board signs would be limited to six square feet per side and could not exceed four feet in height.
Signs could not be located on the public right-of-way or in a way to obstruct traffic or safe use of sidewalks, bike paths, or building entrances.
They would have to be located on private property no farther than 20 feet from the entrance of the business maintaining the sign.
Only one sandwich board sign would be allowed per business, regardless of the number of parcels occupied by the business or its road frontage.
Where multiple businesses occupy a single building with no direct road frontage, it would be allowed for sandwich board signs to be placed on private property along the road frontage. However, signs could be placed no closer than 150 feet apart. In this instance, due to this limitation, not all businesses in the building might be able to have a sign. This would be at the discretion of the building landlord.
Hours for display of sandwich board signs would be limited to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and only at times when the business is open.
Sandwich board signs would be required to be weather resistant and constructed of materials such as metal, finished wood, chalkboard, whiteboard, or plastic, with particle board and similar materials disallowed.
Signs and copy would be required to be of professional quality and well maintained. No lights, reflective material would be allowed on signs, nor would appurtenances such as balloons or paper.
The Walton County Scenic Corridor Design Review Board (DRB) is charged with review of projects proposed for U.S. 98 and U.S. 331 south of the bay and recommendations to the BCC on the design review program.
The DRB had recommended against the U.S. 98/331 Scenic Corridor Outdoor Display Ordinance when it originally came before them. The board changed that recommendation to favorable after the BCC sent it back before them in a revised form.
The Walton County Planning Commission recommended in favor of the corridor outdoor display ordinance with recommended changes, according to Walton County Public Information Manager Louis Svehla. One of those was to increase the height limit for outdoor displays from seven feet to nine feet in order to accommodate automated movie rental boxes. The other was to change the wording “newspaper racks” to “newsworthy publication racks,” Svehla noted.
The DRB recommendation on the Sandwich Board Sign Ordinance for the U.S. 98/331 Scenic Corridor was not to allow sandwich board signs on the corridor. The board’s priority to limit “size and number of signs” in order to maintain the natural beauty of the corridor was stated as a reason for the decision.
At its April 10 meeting, the Walton County Planning Commission also recommended against this ordinance, Svehla reported. However, the planning commission recommended in favor of the versions of the sandwich board sign ordinance that would apply to the CR-30A/Scenic Gulf Drive corridors and non-scenic corridor county roads. The favorable recommendation was with a suggestion to allow one sandwich board sign per storefront rather than one per 150 feet of road frontage as had previously been proposed.
The BCC is scheduled to convene at 4 p.m. on May 20 for public hearings on two other ordinances, one a proposed countywide noise ordinance and one that would disallow roadside fund raising on the U.S. 98 and Scenic Gulf Drive scenic corridors. The outdoor display and sandwich sign board ordinance proposals are to be in conjunction with the special meeting to follow, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. The location is the South Walton Annex.
By DOTTY NIST