Work on Revamped Sign Ordinance Continues

by Katie Pyzyk January 26, 2012 at 10:00 am 3,404 18 Comments

Now that A-frame signs and branded sidewalk cafe umbrellas have been approved for use in Arlington, the County Board is moving on to other, slightly less pressing signage issues as it works to revamp the county’s sign ordinance.

Last week Board members held a work session with County Manager Barbara Donnellan to give input on revisions they’d like to see to the proposal before the final version is inked. The latest draft was devised based on staff input and information gathered at public sessions last year.

One proposed change that all the Board members indicated support for was reducing the number of signs issues that require the Board’s attention. The hope is that by making the ordinance more clear and specific, fewer cases will need special approval.

The county also hopes to include clear standards for illuminated signs. Before that topic can be adequately addressed, Donnellan said a lighting consultant must be hired. Suggestions for illuminated sign restrictions include requiring businesses to turn off lit signs between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Currently, there aren’t guidelines for lit signs in the ordinance because such signs weren’t widespread the last time the Board made revisions. Of particular concern are some of the signs on high rises in Rosslyn, such as on the Northrop Grumman building.

“It starts to look like a commercial district with major marketing when you come across the bridge,” said Board Member Jay Fisette. “I really don’t want to see that proliferate.”

Another topic garnering attention is the issue of allowing commercial signs on the so-called public right of way, such as medians. Right now, only political signs and real estate signs can be put up in these areas. The board splintered on this issue, suggesting solutions ranging from eliminating commercial signs on medians altogether, to imposing fees or permits for such a practice.

The Board voiced approval for listing specific times for when a sign can be put out and must be brought in. Along with that came the idea to revise how far away a sign may be placed from its advertised event. The proposal currently suggests half a mile, but the Board members prefer a quarter mile.

“We are the smallest county in the nation, only 26 square miles,” said Board Member Walter Tejada. “Half a mile is a lot of space.”

Donnellan and staff members will incorporate the Board’s suggestions into a new draft of the ordinance, and additional public meetings will be scheduled in the spring to discuss the nearly finished proposal. The goal for submitting a final revised ordinance and getting it approved is July.

“We certainly have an awful lot of work ahead of us,” Donnellan said.

  • HollaArlington

    Yet once election time rolls around, these guy don’t hesitate in littering every piece of grass with their names on signs.

    • Stitch_Jones

      Do as I say, not as I do? I am shocked, shocked to find gambling at this casino!

  • JamesE

    A simple solution is to allow any and every sign, however each business most pay a personal property tax for the signs, which is based on their value, size, and proximity to the sidewalk. Stickers will be issued and must be displayed. Registering your sign in Maryland and hiding it in a condo garage is not allowed.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      Hee-hee, good one JamesE!

  • Dum Dum Guy at the Gates of Dawn

    They need to hire a “lighting consultant” to advise them when to require businesses to turn off illuminated signs? Really?

    • Bluemontsince1961

      They will also need to hire a consultant to consult with the consultant to see when the signs need to be turned off.

      Crazy. Common sense dictates a timer or sensor on the lights (surely such technology exists somewhere) that turns them on when it gets dark and turns them off when it gets lighter – varying with the seasons. If homes can have timers for lights, why not businesses? But a “lighting consultant?!?!?!” Brought to us by the same folks that thought the “artisphere” would be a super idea, especially during tough economic times.

  • Wilbur

    A simple solution would be to ban the signs. Period.

  • Valerie

    I don’t mind coming across the bridge and seeing “major marketing “. It is a sign of a vital commercial area which, incidentally, pays significant taxes enabling the County to hire “consultants”.

  • JimPB

    “Of particular concern are some of the signs on high rises in Rosslyn, such as on the Northrop Grumman building.
    “It starts to look like a commercial district with major marketing when you come across the bridge,” said Board Member Jay Fisette. “I really don’t want to see that proliferate.”

    How does the public health and/or public safety intersect with these signs? Maybe in the possibility of distracting the attention of drivers. In any more substantial way?

    Is the aesthetics of private buildings a proper concern of government?

  • Arlington MDMA

    oh no, we wouldn’t want Rosslyn to look like a commercial district. that would be terrible. awful. WHY????

    • Lou

      He probably objects to a military subcontractor big-timing their name over Arlington’s skyline. He could have just as easily called out the CEB, which is the first sign you see crossing Key Bridge into Arlington.

      • Arlington MDMA

        it used to be that you only saw the Marriott sign — cementing our reputation as a place to stay while visiting DC.

  • Nick

    Kalawao County in Hawaii appears to be the smallest county in the US (11.99 sq miles). Arlington County is larger with a size of 26.97 sq miles. The smallest county in the continental US would be New York county (22.83 sq miles). http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/15/15005.html. The City of Falls Church (2.2 sq miles), an independant city, is considered a county-equivalent. So, I suppose functionally it might be considered the smallest county in the US.

    • Dum Dum Guy at the Gates of Dawn

      If the Board had hired a consultant on this point I am sure they could have gotten their facts correct. Maybe they are not qualified to make decisions on their own if they think they can just make stuff up and throw it around as if it is the truth.

    • Factoid

      New York County as a whole covers a total area of 33.77 square miles (87.5 km2), of which 22.96 square miles (59.5 km2) are land and 10.81 square miles (28.0 km2) are water.

      Kalawao County has a total area of 52.33 square miles (135.5 km2), of which 13.21 square miles (34.2 km2) (or 25.24%) is land and 39.12 square miles (101.3 km2) (or 74.76%) is water (mostly the Pacific Ocean).

      • Nick

        Then Arlington is smaller than Kalawao and New York if your numbers are generally correct. Finding primary source data to verify Kalawao’s actual boundaries was difficult and the Census quickfacts data must be off. Still, maps clearly show county lines over a large area of water. Since Tejado said county and not county-equivalent (thereby excluding independant cities) his statement appears to be “factoidly” accurate. I stand corrected.

  • Westover Leftover
  • arlcyclist

    How long have they been working on this? Let’s hope no one ever tasks the Board with finding a cure for cancer.


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