Soldotna commissioners tackle freestanding signs in code revision

Soldotna Planning and Zoning Commissioners are forging ahead in their revision to the city’s sign ordinance, with hopes of getting more public input during discussion of regulating new sign technologies.

The city launched a revision process for the sign code — last altered in 2013, with the last major changes made in 2007 — in January of this year. City Planner John Czarnezki thinks the revision will take about a year between holding work sessions after regular commission meetings and factoring in extra time for gathering public feedback on proposed changes.

The revised sign code would apply to new signs — no signs constructed in compliance with the current ordinance would need to change unless they were moved, made bigger or otherwise similarly altered. Revising the sign ordinance is listed as a high priority for the city in it’s comprehensive plan, and Czarnezki has said many of the proposed changes would eliminate confusion, resolve contradictions within the code and make it easier for the city to enforce.

Doug Field owns Kenai Neon Sign Company and has been attending the work sessions. He is a member of the United States Sign Council and the International Sign Association, and has been involved in revisions to the city’s sign ordinance in the past. Field weighs in during work session discussion and offers input and observations as someone who deals with signs on a customer basis.

“Being in that industry, it’s important to stay abreast of what the cities are wanting to regulate,” he said. “It’s important to be involved as the industry representative because I deal with the sign end users a lot more than any of these people do.”

Field said the revised sign code, as currently outlined, would be an improvement to the existing one.

“This code that they’re writing now is a lot better (of a) code than the last one,” Field said. “It’s more user friendly, it’s more in tune with the city environment, the city’s economic environment.”

The commission and city staff spent the fourth work session on the code Wednesday night delving into details about freestanding signs, which are ground or pole signs that are not attached to buildings and are supported by posts, braces or poles. Much of that discussion focused on how to measure those kinds of signs, how large they should be and how they should be allowed to be illuminated. These details vary between the different districts freestanding signs are allowed in within Soldotna.

Pole covers, and how or whether they should be regulated, were a major focus of the night as well. Commissioners pointed out that requiring the poles that hold up signs to be covered with certain kinds of materials might not be best in the long run as styles and tastes evolve.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Colleen Denbrock said that, having been around for numerous sign code revisions, the current process has been the most smooth yet.

Field said part of the services he provides is to procure sign permits, so he deals with the code often. He brings 30-plus years in the sign business to the table during discussions, he said.

“I’m happy to be part of the process and let these people use my expertise of a lifetime in the industry,” he said.

The public can get involved in the process by attending the open work sessions. The city will host two meetings at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on April 5 at City Hall to discuss electronic message centers. Commissioners and staff anticipate this will be a topic of public interest, as electronic signs are somewhat uncharted territory for the city in its sign code.

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