Soldotna sign code revision moves forward

Soldotna’s revision of its ordinance that regulates the many shapes, styles and sizes for signs is progressing as city staff attempt to make it clearer and include the latest technology.

City Planner John Czarnezki said he thinks revising the code should take about a year.

The code, which was first adopted in 1999 and lies in chapter 15.08 of the Soldotna city code, was last updated in 2013, though Czarnezki said the last major revision was in 2007. Czarnezki updated Soldotna City Council members at their Feb. 8 meeting on the status of the revision.

“That piecemeal type of approach to our sign code is really what had the Planning and Zoning Commission back in 2011 interested in updating it and requesting it be inserted as a goal in the comprehensive plan,” he said at the meeting.

Members of the commission, who are going over the code during work sessions after their regular meetings, have so far tackled where the code should be in the greater city code, the relationship of Soldotna laws to state and federal ones, how to measure signs, sign materials and maintenance. They have just begun to discuss illumination, Czarnezki said.

The sign code revision is listed in the comprehensive plan as a “high priority” goal. Some major areas the revision will target according to the comprehensive plan goals include providing regulations for properties that have highway frontage, looking for incentives to bring nonconforming signs into compliance and coming up with better process for variances, Czarnezki said.

City staff also came up with a few goals for the code as well, including creating a “more vibrant” downtown area, making the code easier to enforce and putting the code in the proper section of the overall city code. Czarnezki suggested moving it from the building code to the zoning code.

“Right now, it’s a little difficult to enforce,” he said. “There’s a lot of ambiguities, a lot of inconsistencies and we want to be able to have a code that is enforceable.”

Czarnezki said the code ought to balance the needs of business owners with residents when it comes to traffic safety.

“A sign ordinance should give a business freedom to express its personality, and clearly identify the goods and services it’s offering,” Czarnezki said.

At the same time, he said the revision will delve into issues of safety and potential distractions to drivers caused by signs, such as size relative to distance from a road, number of signs on a building and brightness if it is an illuminated sign. Illuminated or electronic signs have been brought up as a major area of interest in the code and one that commissioners will look at closely during the revision.

Members of the planning and zoning commission will tackle the code topic by topic based on an outline Czarnezki has created for what a possible revised code could look like. Once the commission has put together a draft code, Czarnezki said they will look back at the original standards for the revision to see if the end product matches them. The city will host two public forums to gather input on the revision — one on April 5 and the other on May 3.

The commission will have work sessions on the sign code after its regular meetings at least once a month, possibly twice a month, Czarnezki said in a previous Clarion interview. These meetings are also open to the public. The planning and zoning commission meets at 5:30 p.m. every other Wednesday at Soldotna City Hall.

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