It took 10 months and it will come without the support of one co-chair, but the Light Emitting Diode (LED) sign task force finally has a set of recommendations to submit to Metro Council.
Plenty of restrictions are attached to the recommendations, but the end result will be the potential for LED signs, like the ones used by national chain pharmacies, to be installed in every Metro zoning district.
Although the task force has recommended an alteration to the zoning code that would allow LED signs for religious institutions and schools in residential zones, it comes with strict guidelines.
The restrictions would state: LED signs must be spaced at least 500 feet apart from another LED sign and at least 250 feet from the nearest existing residence. Signs must have an eight-second static duration before a message changes.
Additionally, the signs must use text with an amber hue, be shut off between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and have monument-style landscaping.
The task force added a recommendation only organizations with existing back-lit signs can apply for a special exception permit through the Board of Zoning Appeals to get an LED sign.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s a starting point, and it figures to get amended by the Council, but we had to have something to take back,” at-large Councilman Charlie Tygard said.
It was the expansion into the residential zones that drew the reservation of co-chair Burkley Allen, the president of the Hillsboro West End Neighborhood Association.
“I see too many R’s and IR’s in here,” Allen said, referring to the residential zones where LED signs would be allowed under the task force’s recommendations.
Tygard pointed out that the distance restrictions set up a scenario where neighboring churches and businesses would rush to the BZA for their permit.
“You could have two or three churches in a mostly commercial area racing against each other to fill out the paperwork,” Tygard said, adding that SP zoning like what was used to get Goodpasture Christian School its sign was not a good solution, either.
Fellow at-large Councilwoman Megan Barry reiterated her concerns about sign ordinance enforcement by the Codes Department, although she voted in favor of the task force’s recommendations.
“I think it gives the Council some opportunity to have some discussion about what they want to see go forward,” Barry said. “I do agree that… we may have created a bat to kill a gnat and that’s a concern. It’s definitely a concern for all the neighborhoods because they don’t want to see these things in their neighborhoods. The reality may be that they’re not going to see them, I don’t know. We need to have a good discussion on Council.”
The issue came about a year ago when Tygard was approached by a church wanting an LED sign, which was denied one by the BZA. Tygard proposed a bill to bring the signs to residential areas, but the legislation faced strong opposition from neighborhood organizations.
In response, Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors formed the task force, which finally completed its work this week.
The task force attached a memo to its proposed ordinance stating concerns about Codes’ enforcement of the ordinance.
“The Council should bear these enforcement issues and their attendant costs in mind when considering the attached legislation,” the task force’s memo reads.