Application for COA may change in Oxford

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Oxford planning officials have been tweaking the city’s sign ordinance since it was first implemented several years ago to make sure Oxford doesn’t become covered by large, gaudy commercial signs and that the historic integrity of the downtown Square remains in tact.

And more tweaks could be coming.

The planning department presented proposed changes to the sign ordinance to the Courthouse Square Historic Preservation Commission for its review during its regular meeting Monday night. A copy will also be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission that regulates the historic residential neighborhoods. The commissions will review the changes and vote on whether to recommend their approval to the Oxford Board of Aldermen.

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The ordinance would add awnings, marquees and window decals to the definition of signage on a building. An awning that has lettering on it will be considered signage and will be allowed to be externally illuminated, but internal illumination will not be permitted. A marquee is a sign mounted to a permanent canopy and window signage will include decals, signs painted on glass.

The number of free-standing signs is limited to one per lot provided that where a lot has frontage on two public streets and has a minimum frontage of 300 feet on either street and a combined frontage greater than 650 feet, the number of free-standing signs may be increased to two. The number of wall signs shall be limited to two signs and shall include business identification, logo, or product advertising signs.

If the changes are accepted eventually by the Board of Aldermen, awnings, window and marquee signs that display business advertisement, will be included in the calculation of the number of signs.

Other proposed additions to the ordinance for the historic districts include allowing businesses only one interior illuminated business sign that is located within a 3-foot radius and visible from a window. The sign cannot flash or move and will not exceed 4 square feet in size.

In multi-tenant buildings, each street-level tenant may have all signage as outlined by the ordinance. Upper-story tenants are permitted to display an entry into the building’s directory.

The ordinance would also state that all commercial signs are subject to the approval of the Courthouse Square or the Oxford Historic Preservation commissions in the downtown area.

COA changes

The commissions are also reviewing changes to the city’s Certificate of Appropriateness applications that are filled out by homeowners and developers when seeking approval for changes and additions made to homes and businesses in the historic districts.

According to the city’s Design Guidelines, applications for new construction, additions to existing structures, restoration or rehabilitation of an existing home or structure inside one of the historic districts must include a set of plans and drawings showing all exterior elections proposed for the structure. It also needs to include overall dimensions, types of materials to be used on walls, roofs, windows, trim and siding.

The site plan should indicate property lines, setbacks, location of the structure or proposed location of a new structure, accessory building, parking facilities, exterior lighting, fencing, landscaping and screening for utilities. The application must include photographs of the existing structure, of if new construction, a photograph of the lot and the adjoining structures.

However, the current application does not include wording that tells the person filing for a COA what all needs to be included.

On Monday, assistant city planner Katrina Hourin presented the CHS commissioners with a proposed COA application that lists all the required documentation on the application itself.

“This is good,” said commissioner Mike Overstreet. “We have people who sometimes just submit a sketch. This will help a lot.”

The proposed application also shows the fee schedule for major and minor renovations, demolitions, etc. The commission asked the planning staff to define what “major” and “minor” alterations were with a percentage.

The commission tabled the discussion and vote on the sign ordinance amendment and COA application until the February meeting since several commission members were absent from the meeting Monday.