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To a business owner, a big sign is a thing of beauty. However…

“Non-conforming” signs in Lincoln City
City of Lincoln City photos
Click photos to enlarge

While there’s nothing more breathtakingly beautiful to a business person than a nice big sign with his or her business name on it, not everybody feels that way. And the city council of Lincoln City is tackling the problem – signs that are too tall, too wide and too big in general. By the way, all the signs you see along the side of this story could not be approved today under current city sign codes.

City councilors were told Monday evening by Community Development Director Richard Townsend that all of these signs were put up many years ago, some before there were any rules at all. Others were erected when the rules were lax. Still others were built with no record of having been approved.

What’s triggering the issue is that businesses want to erect bright, message changing, LED signs. But here’s the dilemma. Some of those businesses want to attach those signs to the old signs – signs that are called “non-conforming.”

Many cities in Oregon allow for such “LED upgrades.” But they also make the sign owner bring the overall sign into compliance with current law. All of the signs along the left border of this story, we’re told, are all out of compliance. And so to make them compliant, they’d have to be shortened, or the sign face made smaller if they want to attach a message changing LED sign.

On the general idea of non-conforming signs, Mayor Dick Anderson and several councilors indicated that signs that are grandfathered in must be taken down or down-sized eventually. Usually their owners are given a number of years to (tax) write off the cost and then replace them. Or in this case, the idea was raised that when a sign owner wants to upgrade a part of it, to accommodate an LED display, the rest of the sign would have to be downsized or replaced to conform with today’s rules. In a round about way the councilors then began inferring (ever so gently) that maybe these sign owners have enjoyed “protected status” for so long that it gives them an unfair advantage over other stores whose newer signs are much smaller.

Another fly in the soup stems from signs erected years ago on property that still has no buildings on them. The last two pictures on the left are cases of that. Today, those signs could not be erected, period; not on undeveloped property. So if none of those sign owners ever apply for an LED addition, does that mean that they get to leave them up forever? The council didn’t seem overly comfortable with that idea.

At that point the council, especially councilors Henry Quandt and Roger Sprague, agreed that they all need to think more about the issue, so they postponed further discussions until the next city council meeting, September 10th.

On a related sign matter, the council expressed support for relaxing the town’s A-frame sidewalk sign ordinance. If they approve the change, the little signs could be placed in front of businesses, especially during the tourist season; but not on sidewalks and not in the street. They would have to be on store property only.

Some store owners swear by the small A-frame signs. One told the city council Monday night that he surveyed his customers over the span of a week or so and said that over 60% of them said that the sign played a part in them stopping in.

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