Joint Marietta committees talk signs regulations

MARIETTA — Downtown business facades, perpendicular wall-suspended signs, ground and suspended flags, wall murals, lighting, awnings, marquees and business advertising are all back under scrutiny before Marietta City Council.

On Thursday, two council committees met jointly to discuss the plan to customize sign regulation in the C-4 commercial district which encompasses the downtown business district and a portion of Harmar on the west side of the Muskingum River.

Council’s Streets Committee retains jurisdiction over signs which exist on or over the right-of-way (city sidewalks and roads primarily).

Council’s Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee retains jurisdiction over signs, lighting and anything adhered to the side of a building.

Streets Committee Chairwoman Kathy Downer revived the signage discussion after three years with the hopes of updating city ordinances regarding both jurisdictions in order to have a “more planned and cohesive-looking downtown.”

The plan moving forward is to dissect model ordinances from Wooster and Westerville in the joint committee.

“I think Wooster looks very historical, it’s beautiful. But what Wooster does is it coordinates the size of business signs with the size of the front,” Downer explained.

But, Downer pointed out, not all design guidelines and ordinances of Wooster would be adopted outright.

“We’re not going to blindly adopt Wooster’s sections because we’re unique,” she said.

The goal is to read two sections of Wooster’s sign ordinances and then provide feedback at regularly scheduled joint committees over the next few months.

The first two, Wooster’s codified ordinances 1171.02 and 1171.03, will be reviewed at 4:30 p.m. May 9.

That meeting will be followed by another at the same time on May 23.

Archeologist Wes Clarke cautioned council Thursday to remain cognizant of the impact signage regulation may have on business viability downtown.

“I’m not advocating for or against any particular design,” Clarke noted. “But (updates are) going to have to be guided by a broader concept for what you’re trying to develop downtown… Westerville is one of the more booming suburbs of Columbus (because) they have used the control of colors and signage to drive the economy there.”

Ken Kupsche, co-owner of The Cook’s Shop on Front Street, also addressed council Thursday, asking that council strongly consider the square-footage restrictions for sign size which Wooster uses, calling the three levels of lighting, awning and mural across Front Street at the Marietta Brewing Company overwhelming.

“Signs are supposed to get people into your business,” noted Councilman Mike McCauley, whose ward primarily falls within most of the C-4 district.

McCauley has previously cautioned council against using the term historic as a justification for banning neon colors in signage, noting neon signs are a part of Marietta’s business history.

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