Council Adopts Modified New Sign Code

Council voted to approve a modified new sign code and to send three proposed changes to the code to the Planning and Zoning Commission for further work before returning those proposed changes back to Council for possible final approval. Photo by Carol A.

Staff Report

The purposes are to:

(1) Encourage the effective use of signs as a means of communication and way-finding in the County;
(2) Maintain and enhance the aesthetic environment of the County and the County’s ability to attract sources of economic development and growth;
(3) Improve pedestrian and traffic safety on public rights-of-way;
(4) Minimize the possible adverse effect of signs on nearby public and private property;
(5) Establish a regulatory system to allow a wide and creative variety of signs types;
(6) Allow certain signs that are small, unobtrusive and incidental to the principal use of the respective lots on which they are located to be placed without a permit, subject to the requirements of this chapter;
(7) Enable the fair and consistent enforcement of the provisions of this article; and
(8) Provide an approach to sign regulation that recognizes the need for context based standards. This includes “Sign Areas,” which are geographical boundaries that differentiate locations based on factors such as road speeds, the built environment, and proximity to residential neighborhoods. The following are general descriptions of the designated Sign Areas:
a. Area 1 is intended for rural areas with larger residential parcels and which may include some accessory land uses.


ATTACHMENT B. Code Ordinance No. 02-227
b. Area 2 is intended for areas of residential land uses with accompanying lower speeds of vehicular traffic.
c. Area 3 is intended for urban areas, which have a pedestrian emphasis, and lower speed vehicular traffic. An example of Sign Area 3 would be Central Avenue.
d. Area 4 is intended for urban areas which are primarily used by motor vehicles and have higher vehicle speeds. This area may include tourists and people who are unfamiliar with the area who would benefit from commercial messages. Examples of Sign Area 4 would include Trinity Drive and Diamond Drive.
e. Area 5 is intended for urban areas which also are primarily used by motor vehicles and have higher speeds, and may include areas that are frequented by tourists whose destination may not have been Los Alamos but would benefit from commercial messages. An example of Sign Area 5 includes New Mexico Highway 4 (NM4).
Sec. 16-402. Applicability.
(a) In general. This article regulates the location, number, size, duration, manner of display and type of sign that may be placed within the County. Unless specifically listed as exempt herein, all signs, whether requiring a permit or not, shall meet the requirements and standards of this article.
(b) When a “Sign Area” boundary crosses a parcel rather than following a property line, so that a single parcel is covered by two separate Sign Areas, the largest Sign Area (measured in square feet, and 51 percent or greater) relative to the subject property shall be the standard. However, the allowable freestanding sign (i.e., pole, pylon and monument) may be the less restrictive of the two Sign Areas, if sign is located in the less restrictive Sign Area. In a situation where a less restrictive Sign Area is the greater portion (measured in square feet and 51 percent or greater) of a property, the allowable freestanding sign shall not be located in the more restrictive sign area, unless it is sized according to the standard of more restrictive Sign Area.
(c) Church, school, signs. When a church or school is located within Sign Areas 1 and 2 (residential), the allowable signs shall adhere to the requirement of Sign Area 3, except that the only signs allowed are: Address, Banners, Building Identification, Building Marker, Bulletin Board, Canopy, Community Event (Private Land), Construction, Directional (Private Land), District Identification, Election, Electronic Message Center (EMC), Garage Sales, Hanging (per façade or façade face), Hours of Operation, Incidental Residential (single family and duplex buildings), Kiosk (public information), Large Single Use Buildings, Monument, and Public Signs/Non-Commercial.
Sec. 16-403. Permit required.
(a) Permit required. All signs shall require a permit prior to installation, modification, or replacement, unless Table 16-409t1 identifies the sign type as not requiring a permit.
(b) Applicants for sign permits are encouraged to discuss plans with Community Development Department staff members prior to application so that staff can assist applicants in determining whether the site of the proposed sign or other conditions will require submittals in addition to the sign permit.

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