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Published: Wednesday, 2/16/2005

Oregon: Sign code to get only minor changes

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The process for getting variances to Oregon's sign code won't be changing.

City administrators had proposed changing some of the sign code regulations as well as the appeals process because of reoccuring problems with variances. Oregon City Council members decided this week to keep the variance process as it is but make a few minor "user-friendly" changes to the code.

The Board of Zoning Appeals will continue to have the authority to grant variances to the sign code.

Council members had considered bestowing that authority on themselves, but councilmen Jim Seaman and Mike Seferian raised concerns over sign regulations appeals coming back to the same board that passed the regulations.

The city's Economic Development Committee met with three members of the zoning appeals board for nearly four hours to discuss proposed changes to the sign code, said Councilman Matt Szollosi, who chairs that committee. There was a lengthy discussion on the appeals process.

"We discussed the BZA's approach to variances, and ultimately everyone agreed the BZA is the proper body to hear variances, so that is not going to change," he said.

What is going to change is the lines of communication between the zoning appeals board and the administration, which need to be increased, Mr. Szollosi said.

"The BZA and the city need to work together and have increased communication in order for enforcement of the sign code to occur," he said.

Rick Orovitz, who has been a member of the zoning appeals board for five years, said that while there has been a significant increase in variance requests since the sign code was updated in 2002, he doesn't believe the board is making too many exceptions.

Mr. Szollosi said the next step is to plan a sign code workshop to familiarize city officials with the updated regulations and changes in an effort to reach the goals of the sign code, which are to increase traffic safety and enhance the aesthetic appeal of the community.

"Everyone at the meeting agreed that we want the city to be aesthetically pleasing," he said.

Sign code updates approved by the council Monday include:

w● Prohibiting political signs to be illuminated.

w● Not computing planters or supporting structures in sign area unless the structures exceed 36 inches in height.

w● Changing the abandoned sign definition to include a sign that remains after a building is removed or 50 percent of a building is remodeled.

w● Mandating that non-visible fixtures should be mounted below freestanding signs and wall signs for external illumination.



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