Millville begins process to revise signage code

The signage ordinance discussion continued in Millville this week with a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to discuss the next steps. Commission Chairman Robert Linett asked Eric Evans, building and code enforcement officer – who broached the subject in a recent town council workshop – to write down the problems or “perceived problems” with the current signage ordinance.

“Our sign ordinance needs to match the zoning book and the design standards,” said Evans. He also said that they need to be explicit with their intent and write it into the code. That, Evans said, does not exist now, and definitions are needed, he added.

He said some of the issues were that C-2 single business district signs are only allowed to be 5 percent or 100 square feet, whichever is less, (the same in the C-2 multi-business district), and movie theaters are allowed according to town code but signs for them are not allowed. Nothing, he said, is written regarding electronic signs.

Evans also said the code has “readability” problems and isn’t clearly understandable to people.

“OK – so, number 1, 3, 5 and 6, people have brought up as problems?” asked Linett of the reported problems. “What do the other towns say?”

“Bethany Beach has done a tremendous job,” said Evans, referencing a recent effort to revise that town’s signage ordinance and place all pertinent law in a single location.

“Here’s what I’d like to see,” interjected Linett. “Before you put in the long work and the town council says you have gone too far down the alley, write it in columns: ‘This is what ours says, this is Ocean View’s, this is Bethany Beach’s,’ and then write your recommendation in a column. We can tackle those right away and do the larger re-write another time.”

Commissioner Mike Jeffers added that he liked the idea of a matrix and said it would be “easy to read and easy to present.” He later noted that it could also be expanded easily.

“And if they don’t buy that first phase of research,” Jeffers added of the council, “then the point is really moot at that point.”

The commissioners said they would also like real feedback from businesses regarding the current ordinance. They asked Evans to present his “matrix” at the next Planning and Zoning Commission so it could then move on to the town council.

They also asked that he write down things he would like to see in a “directional” sign ordinance, an issue the council discussed in their workshop that was brought up by local developers. They asked if, instead of “bandit” signs directing people to new developments inside Millville, the council would consider allowing more permanent directional signs so people can find the developments easier.

“We need to limit the number, and if they are on leased property, it has to be temporary,” said Linett. “If permanent, it could be a public amenity, such as a gazebo or a bench.”

“Write elements of an ordinance and give to council,” Linett directed Evans. “Say, ‘The ordinance will include these elements…’ but don’t write the whole ordinance.”

Linett was adamant that P&Z not get too in-depth with what they offer the council.

“We say, ‘Here’s some bite-size stuff. You like it?’ You know what happened with the design standards. It took months. We give them the top six,” he said of the signage issues, “and say, ‘You want us to do the other 70 or not?’”

Evans had also asked about ordinance addressing sidewalks, accessory structures and moving buildings, but he said he preferred to discuss them after the signage discussions are complete.

“Accessory structures are easy, but if it’s going to get into these things, it’s best to take it one thing at a time and make them right,” he said.

“Let’s stick with signs,” agreed Linett. “We’ll hold off on anything but signs for now.”

Jeffers added that Evans could look into accessory structures and some of the other issues and add them to the matrix, and compare those things to other towns, as well, but it didn’t need to be done right away, as they wanted to keep it in small bits of information at a time.

“The town code has areas that need to be corrected,” said Evans. “We need to make it a code for Millville. Now is the time to do that. Not a code of Bethany, or Ocean View, but of Millville. It’s a living document, and something is going to come in and we may have to write an ordinance on … like solar panels, or wind farms, for example, so we have to plan for the future and write a code for the future.”

Evans will present his matrix and elements to be added into a directional sign ordinance at the next P& Z meeting, and then, after discussion, they will forward their recommendations to the council.