Mission’s pending code revisions to allow preservation of historic signs

Mission has already updated code to allow sign poles like the one at Village Inn. Now it’s considering changes to grandfather in old signage that reflects the “historic” character of the city’s business district.

City code revisions in Mission, pending council approval, could allow owners of old signs to keep them — for history’s sake.

After more than three years of discussion with the community, the Mission City Council last year approved revisions to sign code regulations, according to a memo from City Administrator Laura Smith. Since then, the council and staff have continued to hear feedback from the community regarding prohibited types of signs, particularly pole signs.

Council members have ultimately tasked the staff to find a solution that would allow owners to reuse old signs that currently violate city code. Smith presented that solution, an added revision titled “Section 430.130 Signs of Historic Significance,” to the community development committee Wednesday evening.

Those revisions permit the city to review the continued use of old signs on a case-by-case basis, Smith said. Those revisions go before the council June 20 for final approval.

“The intent of creating a new language and a new definition [or a new sign type] was to provide a mechanism which would allow for the preservation, maintenance or reuse of signage that contributes to Mission’s unique character, history or identity but would otherwise be prohibited,” Smith told the community development committee.

But what makes an old sign “historic”? City staff laid out four prerequisites. To qualify, signs must be at least 40 years old and structurally safe (or can be made safe without changing the look), according to code revisions. They must also keep most of their character-defining features — these can be materials, technologies, colors, shapes and art, for instance. Finally, qualifying signs must demonstrate Mission’s cultural, economic and historic heritage.

Sign owners must apply through Mission’s planning commission to receive “historic” status of their signs. If rejected, owners have a month to appeal the city’s decision.

Council members discussed the order of information as listed in the revisions. Council member Sollie Flora asked if the revisions allowed for education opportunities before enforcement of city code. Smith affirmed yes, pending final council approval.

Staff recommended other minor changes to sections of the sign code ordinance, Section 420.220, for simplifying administrative processes, Smith added.