Planners look for signals on freeway sign ordinance

By Dave Frank

Appeal Staff Writer

Carson City planners want to know how tall, bright and close to homes residents think signs along the bypass should be.

The city only has the 30-foot-tall Harley Davidson next to Carson's section of the Interstate 580 freeway right, but planners expect more applications for large signs and want to develop rules before more arguments come up.

They will discuss their ideas with city planning commission Wednesday.

Commission and city planners started to talk about developing rules for freeway signs after an argument between the manager of the city's largest shopping center, North Carson Crossing, and the residents at the Northridge subdivision next to it.

Manager Kent Witt said he needed a 65-foot-tall sign to advertise businesses that include Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Residents said the sign was invasive and unnecessarily large.

The commission rejected Witt's application for a special permit in November, and city supervisors turned down an appeal from Witt earlier this month.

Commissioners also approved a 120-day moratorium this month on special permits for signs over 30 feet.

"It's a mix between (respecting) business and the wonderful setting Carson City has with the Sierras," said Commissioner Mark Kimbrough. "You'd hate to lose some of the attraction of Carson City."

The commission knows sales taxes are important to the city, he said, but large signs can affect anyone, not just people in a subdivision next to the sign.

Planning staff want to get ideas on issues such as how big a sign can be, how close they can be to each other and what kind of light displays they can have.

A balance between business and community can be difficult to reach without ideas from business, residents and the city, planners say in a report to the commission.

For instance, the report said a sign along some sections of the freeway would have to be 70-feet tall to be seen clearly by drivers. That could have a "negative impact" on nearby properties, though, and possibly be unsafe if it's too close to the Carson City Airport.

Planners have had to "take a step back" from the initial recommendations in 2006 that the commission deal with freeway signs one at time, said Carson City Principal Lee Plemel, but this isn't the first time the commission developed a special sign ordinance.

It passed rules for auto dealers in 2006, saying those signs can be 32-feet tall and 200 square feet without a special permit.

Freeway signs could end up being allowed to be taller than the normal 30 feet like the auto signs or kept the normal height, Plemel said.

North Carson Crossing is allowed to build a 45-foot tall sign, however, because the commission has already approved that height.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

If you go

WHAT: Carson City Planning Commission

WHERE: The Sierra Room in the Community Center, 851 E. William St.

WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday

A copy of the agenda is on www.carson-city.nv.us. Click on the "what's happening" tab and go to "meeting information."

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