P&Z board hears heated digital signage discussion

By Denise Lana,

During its monthly meeting held Monday, March 11, at 5:30 p.m., the Decorah Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously passed proposed changes to city ordinance 17 regarding zoning – R-5 Planned Unit Development District. This ordinance is created to allow flexibility of land use and building locations, with the proposed changes focused on making more properties eligible for building to help combat the city’s housing shortage. 

As part of the approved changes, section 17.84.020 amends the tract size of land from “not less than five acres” to “not less than two acres.” 

In section 17.84.030, Item “B” is deleted in its entirety and replaced with an entirely new portion.  

The Item B replacement states that buildings, or portions of buildings, may be used for limited commercial purposes as long as the building is no closer than 150 feet from an adjacent residential zoning district. Also, the combined commercial units may not exceed 10 percent of the total units in the development and must be identified on the development plan. Lastly, all potential uses of commercial units must be submitted with the development plan and be approved in thepermit. 

Section 17.84.050 is amended to delete the last portion stating that any change in the development plan should be submitted in the same process as the original development plan. A new section, 17.84.070, was added to explain that changes made after construction regarding commercial usage would require going through an abbreviated approval process including P&Z and City Council, and the changes would fall under the modification section that allowed for any change in less than 10 percent in density.  

Digital & Electronic Sign Ordinance

During its regular meeting Feb. 19, the Decorah City Council voted down recommended changes made by P&Z to Chapter 17.16 of the ordinance regarding regulation of electronic signs in Decorah. Proposed changes would have allowed digital signs to be permissible across all commercial zoning districts except C3, and electronic signs would have been allowed across all districts but limited to hours of operation in the C3 district.  

With a vote of 3-4, the proposal was nearly split among the council members, with one member questioning why the city was not enforcing the code as written and instead accommodating changes to the code to include many signs in violation. Another member voiced concerns about the city’s historical status and how digital and electronic signs might detract from the city’s downhome atmosphere. A third council member questioned the validity of the city’s Board of Adjustment  (BoA) Committee when approving digital and electronic signs and billboards, asking how the council could ensure the BoA operates properly in those circumstances. 

Most of the council members wanted more detailed rules.

The complete article can be found in the March 14 Decorah Public Opinion Newspaper.

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