An initiative petition against the City Council’s electronic messaging center sign ordinance calls to prohibit not only the discussion and consideration of EMC signs, but also any EMC sign variances, City Attorney Steve Murdock said Monday.
The City Council voted 3-2 on Jan. 13, to allow EMC signs in commercial zoning districts. Councilwoman Elizabeth Waner and Councilman Darrell Davis voted against the item.
Former Edmond mayors Randel Shadid, Dan O’Neil and Saundra Naifeh filed the petition Feb. 14. By law they were given 90 days to collect 634 signatures in order to send the issue to a vote of City of Edmond residents. The measure would be on the ballot in the April 2015 municipal elections if enough signatures are recorded, Murdock said.
“They say specifically in their language, ‘The electronic message center signs are prohibited in the City of Edmond, Oklahoma, and cannot be considered as a variance,’” Murdock said.
The City Council was asked to discuss the item at Saturday’s annual Edmond Neighborhood Summit, sponsored by the Edmond Neighborhood Alliance. ENA often advocates for neighborhoods at the City Council and Edmond Planning Commission meetings. The event is co-sponsored by the City of Edmond and the Edmond Economic Development Authority.
City Councilman Nick Massey’s wife, Dr. Karen Mahlmeister, asked the council to discuss the ongoing digital sign debate at the summit on Saturday at the Multi-Purpose Activity Center, located at Mitch Park.
“Whenever you talk about signs in Edmond, it becomes a real touchy subject,” Massey said. “I guess that’s part of our history.”
Shadid, Naifeh and O’Neil are within their rights to file the petition, Massey said. People are passionate about both sides of the issue, he said.
“I think there’s a lot of people in-between,” Massey said. “The only thing that I would add is as you make your decision, whether you support this or not, is understand what the new ordinance actually says — what it allows — what it does not allow.”
The EMC sign ordinance allows for a static message that can change no faster than 30 seconds, Massey said. The use of graphics on flashing signs is prohibited by the ordinance. Only a plain text message is permitted, he said.
“To have one of those signs, first of all, you have to be in a place where you could have a commercial sign and meet all the current city codes,” Massey said. “If you meet that — if you want an EMC sign — it can only take up 75 percent of the available space on the sign.”
EMC signs would be allowed in all zoning districts along arterial streets, as defined in the Master Transportation Study. These corridors are on Broadway, Second Street going east to Interstate 35, West Edmond Road and 33rd Street from Broadway to Boulevard, according to Bob Schiermeyer, city planner.
Councilwoman Waner agreed with Massey that the public needs to research the EMC sign ordinance before signing the petition. The City of Edmond created a sign ordinance in 1994, which has contributed to how Edmond looks, Waner said.
“This is a major change,” Waner said. “It may only be saying it may only be changing every 30 (seconds),” Waner said. “But it’s light and it’s at night. And I think that’s an important consideration.”
The EMC sign requirements must meet certain lighting requirement levels that are standardized, Massey said. Owners of the EMC sign would be required to have a certificate by the manufacturer stating that each of the codes are in compliance with the EMC sign ordinance.
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