Sparks City Council Meeting 7/14/2014 2:00:00 PM

    Monday, July 14, 2014 2:00 PM
    Council Chambers, Legislative Bldg, 745 4th St., Sparks, NV

General Business: 6.8

Title: FIRST READING of Bill No. 2678, an Ordinance amending Title 20 of the Sparks Municipal Code (Section 20.56 Signs); to change the method for sign calculations; to add regulations governing digital signs; and providing other matters properly related thereto.
Petitioner/Presenter: Community Services - Planning Division/Karen L. Melby, AICP
Recommendation: FIRST READING
Financial Impact: N/A
Business Impact (Per NRS 237):
A Business Impact Statement is not required because this is not a rule.
Agenda Item Brief:

This request is the first reading for a Code Amendment to Chapter 20 to change the method for sign calculations, to add regulations governing digital signs and temporary signs along with other administrative


The City of Sparks was sued by the sign industry, requiring the City to adopt a new sign code in 2002. The United States District Court for the District of Nevada ordered the City to adopt a sign code that is content neutral. A content neutral sign code is a sign code which only addresses “time, place and manner.” The current code does not distinguish between off-premise and on- premise signs and the content of the sign cannot be taken into account.

Since the adoption of the current Sign Code, staff has had some difficulties in administrating it. The main issues have been:

• Maximum sign area for commercially zoned properties is based on the building frontage which does not define specifically what is the business frontage and if the business has multiple frontages how many are applicable.

• The maximum sign area must be calculated for the entire site including all wall, monument and freestanding signs. So, in the case of a shopping center, when a tenant wants to install a sign the calculations for that tenant must include the calculations of all the signs of all businesses in the center. This causes problems for determining how many and/or the maximum sign size for the individual tenant.

• There is a requirement that signs must be 25% opaque in order to encourage channel letters. The sign companies have difficulty to determine the percentage the sign is opaque and moreover, a sign face can be changed without a sign permit, so in such cases there is no way for staff to regulate the amount of opaque sign area.

• For temporary signs, the Code currently permits two day signs as well as 10 and 20 day signs which must be followed by 90 and 180 waiting periods, respectively before temporary signs can be displayed again. It has been hard for staff to keep track of when such signs are posted and when or if is removed.

On April 26, 2010, staff went to City Council to request direction to initiate a code amendment to Title 20.56 Signs to draft regulations on digital signs and revise other sections that have been difficult to administer. Due to the importance of the sign code, staff established a stakeholders group of people who work in the sign industry, representatives of sign advocacy groups and local businesses to assist in the preparation of this code amendment. Staff researched digital signs and worked with the members of the stakeholders group to prepare this draft Sign Code Amendment. Staff had workshops with the sign industry on October 8, 2013, October 22, 2013 and April 2, 2014. On December 11, 2013 and April 3, 2014, staff had workshops with Sparks businesses. On January 13, 2014, staff met with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful and Scenic Nevada representatives who also participated in the April workshops. The Planning Commission reviewed the draft Sign Code amendment on June 19, 2014 and recommends adoption. No one spoke in favor or opposition to the draft Sign Code during the public hearing at the Planning Commission.


This request is to amend Sparks Municipal Code Chapter 20.56 Signs. The amendments add regulations on digital signs and to address some issues staff has had with administrating the Code. The administrative issues are discussed in the Background Section of this staff report.

The draft Sign Code adds new definitions for co-tenancy, direct lighting, digital sign, flag, gross floor area, new illumination types, interactive sign, LED sign, luminance, new modes of operation, portable sign and tri-vision sign.

The current Sign Code prohibits roof signs. The draft Sign Code proposes an exemption if the roof sign is on a flat on the roof and is only visible from the air. This type of sign does not count towards the total allowable building sign area.

Under Prohibited Signs Section 20.56.050, the draft Sign Code adds three new prohibited signs: a) No sign that imitates or resembles an official traffic signal, sign device or other official warning signs is prohibited; b) No interactive signs are allowed which are digital signs that pose personal responses to drivers or pedestrians passing the sign; and c) The last prohibited sign are signs on wind machines, cellular towers or other equipment except for logos not exceeding eight square inches.

The draft Sign Code consolidates the various regulations (i.e. illumination, maximum sign area, number of signs) currently in separate tables into one table for each type of sign. In the current code, the numerous tables were confusing to use because it was hard to define which regulation applied to which sign type.

The current Sign Code has a table for the maximum allowable sign area which, as discussed in the Background Section of this staff report, has been difficult to administrate. It requires taking into account all the existing and proposed signs on the site in order to determine the size and how many signs are permitted. The draft Sign Code proposes three new tables:

• The first table is for the maximum area of building signs based on percentage of gross floor area for office, business frontage for commercial and industrial uses or tourist commercial based on a percentage of gross floor area.

• The second table is monument signs. There is a set number and size of monument signs per parcel.

• The last table is for freestanding signs. The allowances for freestanding signs are based on a percentage of the site frontage. This makes the freestanding based on the size of the site. The new tables increase the predictability of the allowable sign area and do not require total tabulation of sign area for the entire site but rather by business or site.

Section 20.56.170(E)(6) in the current Code requires a minimum letter size of nine inches. This requirement is proposed to be eliminated to allow the business or sign company to determine the appropriate letter size.

Section 20.56.170(E)(8) currently requires a minimum of 25% of an internally lit sign to be opaque. As discussed in the Background section of this report, this requirement is being eliminated since has been difficult to regulate.

The current Code does not address the new sign technology and illumination. Section 20.56.170(F) has been rewritten to address digital signs. In the current Sign Code, this section is titled ‘Computer controlled variable message electronic and animated signs.’ With the new sign technology, this section has become outdated. The proposed Sign Code would continue to allow digital signs in the C2, I and TC zoning districts and proposes to permit digital signs on sites over 10 acres in PF (Public Facilities) district. The digital standards proposed allow shorter display times, establishes restrictions on the maximum sign size based on zoning district, regulates brightness by foot candles, and includes spacing and operation standards. A constant display of at least eight seconds with a second change time is proposed. This is the industry standard for the operation of digital signs. In C2 (General Commercial) and I (Industrial) 50% of a sign may be digital while in TC (Tourist Commercial) 75% of the sign area may be digital. Monument and special freestanding signs may have the entire sign as digital. The brightness standard is 0.3 foot candles above the ambient light levels measured at the square foot of the area of the sign times 100 to determine the distance to measure brightness level. As proposed, the mode of operations prohibited for signs over 32 square feet does not permit fade, dissolve, travel, message sequencing or scrolling except for TC. No video display, flashing or blinking is permitted. The proposed distance between freestanding signs is 200 feet and special freestanding signs is 3,000 feet.

The draft proposes to eliminate two day temporary signs in favor of “portable sign”, a new sign type. The portable sign cannot be larger than eight square feet and four feet tall and can only be displayed during business hours with location restrictions. Section B of Temporary Signs addresses all other temporary signs. Temporary signs may be displayed at the discretion of the property owner/management and restricted to 2 per public entrance, not to exceed eight per site. All temporary signs must receive a temporary sign permit. The application will have a restricted time frame to display the sign. The maximum size is 18 square feet with the exception of 80 square feet for leasing signs and location restrictions apply.

The sign computations section has been moved to Section 20.56.110 to have the method of calculation in the beginning of the Code. The draft proposes to calculate the geometric area of the sign faces and not the shape surrounding the entire sign area. This method calculates only the area of the individual channel letters. This is intended to encourage channel letters because a business could potentially have a larger sign if using channel letters rather than a cabinet sign.

The draft proposes to allow the change of copy and plexiglass panel without a permit. However, any change affecting the structure or electrical wiring of a sign requires a sign permit.

For nonconforming signs, the draft adds that a nonconforming sign cannot be changed to a digital sign unless the sign is brought into conformance with this code. There is an exception for the replacement or enhancement of existing digital signs.

Refer to the attached draft Sign Code. The text highlighted in yellow is the proposed new text and the text strike-out is to be removed.

Alternatives: FIRST READING

Recommended Motion: FIRST READING

Attached Files:
     Bill No. 2678 Sign Code Ordinance 7-14.pdf
     Sign Code Ordinance Exhibit A 7-14.pdf
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