The Edmond Sun

Our View

May 3, 2011

Let there be light: Grocery store debate highlights sign needs

EDMOND — A few Edmond residents vocally disagreed with the City Council’s granting of a sign ordinance variance to a new grocery store coming to the city. One resident even came to the meeting with a hat outfitted with flashing, red lights in the back to demonstrate his displeasure about Uptown Grocery’s proposed sign.

The design of the new store concept for Buy for Le$$ is patterned after a classic New York warehouse district look, Susan Binkowski told the City Council. Binkowski represents Esperanza Real Estate Investments. The store will encompass 48,000 square feet of a proposed 71,000-sqare-foot building on 6.6 acres on Covell across from Mitch Park. The building will face west, away from Covell.

The 471-square-foot neon sign approved 3-1 by the City Council will be above the southeast corner of the building. City code normally would not allow a sign to extend above the 37-foot tall elevation of the building’s roofline.

While representatives of the Coffee Creek and Villages of Coffee Creek neighborhoods said they are pleased to have a new grocery store option, they are not in favor of the sign.

Binkowski told the City Council that the larger sign size is necessary due to the frontage of the store being located almost 1,000 feet from the corner of Covell and Kelly. The neon sign will be a quarter of a mile away from the nearest home, she told the council. Binkowski also agreed during discussion at the public meeting that the sign will be turned off after-hours.

Whether one agrees with the residents or not on the precedent of a neon sign in this area, the bottom line is that until the City Council updates the city’s sign ordinance this issue is going to continue to crop up.

The council created a Sign Ordinance Review Committee last year that continues to review how to update the 20-year-old ordinance. Dramatic technological changes in signage are challenging cities across the nation as they try to decide how much light may be too much, how much color might be too distracting and whether to allow the new digital signs like the one at the SONIC at Danforth and North Western Avenue.

The longer it takes to decide this issue, the more variances for businesses probably will be granted. Once they’re granted, they are grandfathered in for life whether we like them or not.

Determining how bright LED and neon lighting for signs in Edmond should be is a difficult discussion between the city and the business community, but putting off the decision only creates more problems for all involved. The discussion at City Council about the Uptown Grocery just highlights the need for updating the ordinance.

Hearing a business developer threaten to take a $13 million deal off the table over a disagreement about a sign is not how most people want to conduct business within our city — or for that to be Edmond’s image to those outside looking to make the city their new home.

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