HUDSON — After downtown businesses complained about city sign regulations, officials have decided to give the code a makeover.

The planning commission will, in the new year, review the administration’s proposed changes to the city’s commercial sign regulations.

After meeting with businesses and other stakeholder groups earlier this year, the community development department has crafted recommended changes dealing with business signs. City Council last month gave a first reading to legislation that, if approved, would amend sections of the Land Development Code (LDC) that regulate business signs. 

The legislation was referred to the planning commission for its review. The commission will host a public hearing on Jan. 13, 2020, and then offer its recommendations. The legislation will then return to council, which will also host a public hearing and then make a final decision on the amendments.

Earlier this year, the city sent letters to four businesses saying that window clings being used by the companies violated the sign code regulations and requested they remove the clings or face penalties. 

"We regulate how much of your window can be a sign," said city spokesperson Jodi Roberts at the time. Since the clings cover an entire window, "they are against our sign code," according to Roberts.

Roberts said the city received numerous calls from concerned merchants after they heard from a business owner who received the violation letter. This led to City Manager Jane Howington recommending a moratorium on the enforcement of regulations for non-residential window signs so the administration could meet with merchants and other affected parties to discuss the issues. The businesses that received letters did not have to remove their window clings, said Roberts.

After the moratorium was approved by council in April, Community Development Director Greg Hannan said his staff had three meetings in the spring and summer with merchants and other impacted groups. After the meetings, Hannan said his department created an 18-page document of proposed changes to the sign regulations that both the commission and council will review.

The moratorium on enforcement of non-residential window sign regulations that council approved in April was set to last until Dec. 31. Council in November voted to extend that moratorium by three months so that new council members would have time to learn about the issue. Three new members were elected in November and began their terms in early December.

The week before council approved the moratorium extension, Howington requested the longer moratorium because "we have a major turnover in council. We want to give the new council an opportunity to come up to speed with what you’ve been working on."

Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) said the longer moratorium gives the new council members the "opportunity…for them to catch up on this."

Proposed changes

Here is a look at the proposed changes to the sign regulations:

1. A-Frame signs are currently prohibited. The proposed changes would permit them with restrictions on size and placement;

2. The sign regulations now have separate calculations for temporary window signs and permanent window signs. The proposed change on this item would implement one coverage calculation (33%) for temporary and permanent window signs. A business would be able to cover 33% of a window with either a temporary or permanent sign.

3. Window clings would be permitted, but can only cover 33 percent of the window space. Roberts said clings are photos or images some businesses affix to their windows, and noted this type of signage did not exist when the city last updated its sign regulations.

4. An additional ground sign would be allowed on properties that has more than 300 feet of street frontage. The current number is 500 feet.

5. Ground signs that are on the same lot must be separated by at least 150 feet. The current spacing distance is 200 feet.

6. Businesses on a basement level or second story will be allowed to have additional projecting or hanging signs.

"The goal is to simplify the regulations for business owners, sign contractors and city staff," said Roberts.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.