Jordan city planners have been asked to come up with new language to regulate painted commercial signage in downtown Jordan. The move comes as city officials face the prospect of approving new painted signs amidst a small, but noticeable, gallery of deteriorated and painted-over works downtown.

Murals and painted commercial signs, if executed properly, can lend a downtown some character and charm, but if neglected, painted signage can deteriorate and cast a dilapidated pall over a section of a city. Worse yet, if a sign falls into disrepair or is obsolete, property owners may employ the slapdash solution of “erasing” the sign with a square splotch of paint.

City Councilman Robert Whipps doesn’t think painted commercial signs have any place in Jordan.

“One of the goals of the original downtown master plan was that we were going to preserve downtown Jordan, in my mind, by preserving the beautiful brickwork and all the stuff that we have,” Whipps said at the June 10 planning commission meeting.

Others, like Planning Commissioner Bob Bergquist, said painted commercial signs are part of the city history the master plan purports to preserve.

“I agree with you. I want to keep Jordan the way it is,” Bergquist said. “That’s part of Jordan, that’s what they’re known for, so why would you take that away?”

City code permits painted commercial signage and says owners are required to have signs painted properly, including their supports (unless they’re galvanized or treated for rust). This also applies to murals. The code also says a sign that is obsolete shall be taken down by the owner or anyone who has the beneficial use of the building or land the sign is on.

Murals are permitted in all districts in the city code, and while maintenance is referenced, the wording is vague and difficult to enforce.

At the June 10 meeting, City Planner Nathan Fuerst offered several approaches the city could take in altering language that governs painted signs in the code. The city could separate murals from commercial speech and disallow painted signage entirely. The city could regulate mural placement by zoning district. Or the city could require sign owners to apply for a conditional use permit for painted signs.

Whipps indicated he would prefer painted signs be prohibited downtown, but at the very least he would like stricter terms applied to their maintenance. Several commissioners expressed agreement on the latter point.

Fuerst offered an example of maintenance language that would require repair or removal of signs deteriorated to the point where at least one-fourth of the surface area of the name, identification, description, display, illustration or other symbol is no longer recognizable at a distance of 20 feet. Signs with peeling or flaking paint, rust corrosion, or significant fading would also require removal or repair under the language.

Most commission members responded positively to a stringent and detailed maintenance policy.

“I like how you described the deterioration because that can be so subjective,” Commissioner Brenda Lieske said. “That makes it more clear.”

An additional clause could be included that would require business owners to remove their painted signs within 14 days of closing their business. Whipps said he would like more detailed wording requiring business owners to paint the sign to match the building surface or remove the paint entirely. He suggested sandblasting.

“I don’t want gray blocks like we have on other buildings,” Whipps said.

On May 14, the commission approved a site review for the Pickled Pig Pub to add a painted sign on the building facade with the condition that the establishment remove the sign within 14 days of going out of business.

Planning Commission Vice Chairman Jesse Masloski suggested the city allow painted commercial signs, but with strict standards governing the size, placement, color pallet and quality of paint for future signs. Other commissioners agreed and Whipps suggested all of that could be achieved by requiring prospective sign-owners to apply for a conditional use permit.

The commission directed the planning staff to develop city code amendment language that allows painted signs via CUP and limits those signs to commercial areas. The staff was also asked to explore stringent language regarding maintenance and removal of painted signs.

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