The Tacoma Planning Commission recently completed its review of the recommendations of its Billboard Task Force which was set up to review the recommendations of the Billboard Community Working Group, a group made up of representatives of the billboard industry, property owners with billboards, and billboard proponents on one side and community council representatives and representatives of groups such as Historic Tacoma and Scenic Tacoma on the other. The Planning Commission had made comprehensive recommendations to Council back in 2011 which were adopted but not implemented because of a legal “standstill” agreement between the City and Clear Channel Outdoor, the advertising agency that controls 95% of Tacoma’s billboards. Because of a number of “holes” in the CWG’s recommendations and the fact that the Planning Commission is responsible for making recommendations to the Council on land use and zoning issues the Planning Commission was asked to review and build upon the recommendations of the Billboard Working Group.
At its meeting of September 16th the Planning Commission basically adopted the recommendations its four member Billboard Task Force subcommittee made, building upon the recommendations of the CWG and the Commission’s earlier work four years ago. The Planning Commission held a public hearing on October 7th at 5:00 PM in the Council Chambers to consider changes including the following:
- Provides for relocation credits which emphasize removal of pole-mounted billboard signs in favor of billboard wall signs. The Commission concurred with the recommendation of its Task Force that wall signs have historically been used on blank walls in this and many other cities and have the advantage of typically doing away with unattractive mounting poles and brackets and do not obstruct portions of the skyline that are not already blocked out.
- Opens the following additional zones to billboard wall signs: DCC, DMU, WR, PDB, UCX, CCX, CIX, and NCX.
- Allows billboard wall signs over 300 square feet with staff review. The PC Task Force suggested that a Design Commission or similar group be developed to review off-premise advertising “wall” signs over 300 square feet in area.
- Increases height limit of 35 feet in areas over 500 feet from areas not permitting billboards.
- Reduces required distance between both pole mounted and wall mounted billboards.
- Reduces buffer distance from no-billboard zones and sensitive uses (such as schools, parks, historic properties) from 500 feet to 250 feet.
- Reduces design standards while retaining prohibition of pole signs that are off-set, over-cantilevered, extend over buildings, and have more than one face per side of the billboard.
- Requires efficient lighting and no illumination between midnight and 5 AM.
- Requires stricter enforcement of signs with graffiti. A minimum height of one-story or 10 feet was proposed for “wall” signs to reduce the likelihood of future vandalism.