LOWER SALFORD — Proposed changes to the rules for business signs in some zoning districts will be sent back to the planning commission for its final recommendation after the Lower Salford Township Board of Supervisors realized during an Oct. 7 hearing that the planners had apparently not seen the latest version of the proposed ordinance.
"Let's get this cleared up," board Chairman Doug Gifford said. "If the planning commission has not made a final recommendation, I'm not gonna vote for this ordinance until they do."
The proposed ordinance would be for permitted signs in the OLC (Office-Limited Commercial), RO (Residential-Office) and MU (Mixed-Use) districts.
The proposed changes were proposed for the planned Mainland Pointe project, Rick Mast, the engineer for Mainland Pointe, said. Mainland Pointe, which will be at Sumneytown Pike and an extension of Quarry Road, is in the MU district and will include a Wawa, a Taco Bell, room for additional businesses, apartments and single family homes.
The existing sign rules didn't take into account uses that are now allowed in the RO and MU districts, Mast said.
"This ordinance amendment would allow sign standards with both the RO and the MU districts that are similar to what typically would be required for those types of uses," he said.
Board member Kevin Shelly and some residents taking part in the meeting, however, questioned some parts of the proposed rules, including the lack of regulations for how bright illuminated signs could be and that it did not include any limits on the time the signs could be lit.
Another issue raised was the 15 foot maximum height for freestanding signs, with three signs of that height allowed in Mainland Pointe under the proposal.
"It's a very visible location," one resident said. "I don't understand why they would even require signs 15 feet high, let alone three of them."
Mast said there are other businesses in town with bigger signs and that the 15-foot height would only be allowed for one sign per lot and a total of three signs in the development.
In answer to questions about signs with changeable copy, Mast said changeable copy would only be allowed for displaying fuel prices for fuel sold at that location.
In looking back at the planning commission minutes, township officials realized during the hearing that the planners discussed the proposed new ordinance in February, but did not vote on whether or not to recommend approval. After the February meeting, changes were made to the proposal based on the planners comments, Mast said. The proposed ordinance has not been on the planning commission agenda for its review since February, though, so the planners have not reviewed the changes made, township officials said.
Comments made by the Montgomery County Planning Commission in a September review letter have also not been discussed by the local planning commission.
In the letter, the county planners gave general support to the proposed ordinance, but pointed to a goal to increase walkability throughout town.
"Signage that is large and out of scale with pedestrians could detract from a pedestrian friendly environment," the county planners wrote.
The county planners also recommended that the ordinance "include language to regulate the level of brightness and timing of illumination."
The township planning commission can review the proposal at its meeting this month and make a recommendation so the board can resume the hearing at its Nov. 4 meeting, Township Manager Joe Czajkowski said.
"If you're going to allow businesses, you have to allow reasonable signage, and the question is what's reasonable," Gifford said, "and I want to get input from our planning commission on what is reasonable."
In keeping with the coronavirus-related guidelines, the Oct. 7 meeting was held as a Zoom meeting. It also included final approval of the Taco Bell plans.
Communication committee formed
In a separate matter at the meeting, the board approved creating a Lower Salford Township Communication Committee.
"The purpose of the committee is to facilitate communication between the township and its residents," Shelly said.
The committee will have five members, one of whom is a board of supervisors member and four township residents and/or business members.
Residents interested in being on the committee can send a letter of interest or resume to the township, Shelly said.
The township is also starting an electronic newsletter, Holly Hosterman, assistant to the township manager, said.
"To start with, we're just going to be a once a month e-news to try to hit the high points," she said, but said the email system could also be used to get news out quickly if needed.
The first of the emailed newsletters is expected to go out in the next few weeks, Hosterman said.
Persons interested in getting the newsletters can do so by using the "email sign up" button on the township website, www.lowersalfordtownship org.