City of Guymon to host meeting on public sign ordinance

April Coble
Staff Writer

Signs are everywhere - but how does a city address them so they're not an eyesore and don't endanger public safety?
Those are questions were brought up during the second July regular city council meeting. A draft has been drawn up and a presentation has been prepared to engage the public and allow Guymon residents to give their input on a potential ordinance.

During that meeting, Interim City Manager Larry Mitchell presented a draft ordinance to city council, which had gone through a writing process of about 30 to 45 days. Council was asked to review the draft ordinance and offer comments and suggestions.
Planning Director David Clapsaddle completed much of the work moving forward with the creation of the ordinance.

A meeting will take place tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 24 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in council chambers inside Guymon City Hall at 424 N. Main St., where those stopping by can obtain a copy of the ordinance. The presentation will go over the impacts of the ordinance, followed by time for Guymon residents to ask questions.

Initially, city staff recommendation requested a moratorium be placed on the erection of any new signs with enough time to draft ordinance, receive comment from different groups and enact an ordinance. While there were pieces of ordinance in different locations of the city's code, it wasn't comprehensive and didn't cover everything that would need to be addressed. This one item is part of an overall effort to move forward with the city's comprehensive plan.

"It's the next step in implementing the comprehensive plan, getting a unified development code together for the city so we have all the regulatory criteria in one place," Planning Director David Clapsaddle said.
Zoning, subdivisions, signs and building permits are all being examined to ensure city code is clear and comprehensive.

"Everything will be all in one municipal code," Clapsaddle continued.

He added the city does not currently have a comprehensive sign ordinance. Part is in the zoning code, but that only addresses structural issues. Part is in the building code.

"It is in two or three places. So we thought it would be better to have all the sign criteria in one place. It creates a level playing field. All people have to know is to look in the ordinance. How high can my sign be, what's the setback, am I allowed a digital sign. If I'm going downtown, what are the standards for downtown," Clapsaddle said.

"It will allow a level playing field for out businesses in Guymon as new businesses come in from other areas."

Clapsaddle added that Guymon city staff is also working to learn from other places - both those who have done their code well, as well as those who have not. Other ordinances were examined and used to piece together and create criteria that fits Guymon.

Mitchell continued, stating part of the motivation was to bring the pieces together and up to date. Included in the motivation for a new code had to do with future development, which covers a focus on Guymon's major highways. Highways 54, 412 and other state highways.

"You have the potential for seeing new commercial development. We wanted to make sure that the city kind of had their act together so to speak, or was current in that respect," Mitchell said.

Mitchell noted from city council's perspective, the new electronic billboard that went up on the corner of Main Street and Highway 54 drew some attention.

"Whether it was good, bad, or indifferent, I think it just sort of signaled to them that… there may be other property owners or other commercial enterprises that want to put up similar signs, and we don't have anything in our ordinance that will address that type of sign," Mitchell said.

Whether it is too close to the intersection, could conflict with a traffic signal, or could be a potential distraction to drivers, each of the various issues play a role in crafting a comprehensive, single ordinance. Nothing in current code addresses whether or not a type of sign can be in a specific type of location.

Mitchell added part of the motive for the ordinance work is also to address abandoned, aged and potentially dangerous signs.

"Signs that for whatever reason… you have a sign pole or a sign that the lettering is faded or the wind has caught it and it's broken. That was part of my issue in trying to address this problem, because we have a lot of those types of signs around town. It's a way of sort of cleaning things up," Mitchell said.

Public safety is also a concern.

"There are some that are in such a state they could create public issue as well," Clapsaddle said.

Input on the ordinance draft was sought from the Chamber of Commerce, Board of Adjustments, Zoning and Planning Commission and City Council. Now, it goes to the general public. With the casino announcement, signage could become a major concern.

"Whether the casino comes or not… it sort of got our attention about what if other companies come in along those major arterials and they're still putting up these billboards and signs," Mitchell said.

Clapsaddle added there was no way to say yes or no, apply for a permit and have structure in place to have a permit evaluated against a set of criteria.

Mitchell says the meeting this evening will give members of the public an opportunity visit to give their thoughts and address what they like or don't like.

"I think it's a good step for the city. It's one that hopefully will lead to other similar efforts as we look at future development around the community," Mitchell said.

He added traveling through different communities can reveal which have done well with their sign ordinances, as well as those that haven't.

"I've spent 12 years in Lawton, so I spend a lot of time driving between Lawton and Oklahoma City. You can just see on the highway things that happen or don't happen because you're not paying attention," Mitchell said. "When you drive into Lawton, you can see a whole row of billboards. There's probably a dozen of them lined up. Every billboard has a different message, and they're about 300 feet apart. I'm not sure they're very effective but I am certain they aren't very appealing to someone entering your community to have a series of billboards that are in various states of repair or disrepair."

He notes one billboard advertising the local paper. The information on the billboard was several years old. Drivers could see the paper's name, read the number, but could possibly be unable to figure out what the picture and message was otherwise.

"The sign ordinance will help us do our corridor plans for 12th, 4th, Main Street and 54," Clapsaddle said. "Which is… part of the comprehensive plan. So once we get this on board, we'll be able to move forward with comprehensive plans for each of our major streets."