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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Signs - Building the Winery: Part 6

As you can conclude from my previous posts, there is more to building a winery than just throwing up some framing and a roof. There are so many things that one must consider beyond the obvious visible aspects of the building. As the winery gets closer to completion (we are still a long ways away), one has to consider other things. One is just making sure you have enough product to sell (more on that later), but the other is to consider the marketing part of the project. Without people coming to the winery, all is lost.

So I took a careful look at all the signage we will need and then began reading the County statutes that apply to putting up signs. There are nine pages specifically dedicated to signs and how they can be installed within the county limits. Nine pages! Recognizing that nothing is smooth sailing within this County, I started to read through these to see where my particular signs fell within the codes.

The regulations began by talking about how the signs shouldn't interfere with the pleasant rural scheme that has unfolded over the last 300 years. I guess that kind of eliminates huge billboards (think: "400 miles to SOUTH of the BORDER"), which I don't have. Whew !

As you read more and more of these statutes and other regulatory manuscripts, they all tend to have  a phrase like" intended to protect the health,safety, and welfare of the public." If this isn't a catch all, I don't know what is. Almost anything you do will either piss someone off, or at best they might not care. This one little phrase, influenced greatly by someone with a legal sense, allows County administrators to get in your face and try to tell you what to do in every imaginable way. And what better way to make their presence known than to get involved in the approval process of a simple sign. A sign is your entry way into the market. It is a way to say "I'm over here !" It is your defining message. And it is open to government intervention.

How's this for a line in the regulations: "Distribute equitably the privilege of using the public environs to communicate private information." Huh ?

So I plod through the regulations. There are general requirements. I'm OK with these. These things include location, construction,materials, manner of illuminating and/or securing or fastening, and number of signs applied for, and the wording of the sign or advertisement to be carried on the sign. I suppose if you have a "normal" sign, none of this is worth arguing about.

And then there are Prohibited Signs. Wind sail signs (think of those in front of an auto dealership on Presidents Day), flashing signs, signs on a roof, signs attached to vehicles, or those put on an unapproved supporting structure. So far, so good......missed that bullet.

There are exempt signs,traffic signs, No Hunting signs. There is the typical disclaimer that the County does not wish to stifle free speech by limiting political signs. There are on-premise signs, and off-premise signs. There are rules for signs within an Agricultural - Residential District, and an RVC District (whatever that is), a R-1 District (I know this one, it's a level of residential), a B-1 District (i.e. Business) , a B-2 District (which is kinda funny since our downtown has a single traffic light and has maybe a dozen buildings total, but somehow we managed to have 2 levels of Business), an M-1 District as well as a M-2. Really ?

Now in each of these areas the sign is restricted in different ways by how large it can be, where or how it should be mounted, how high it is allowed, whether illumination is permitted , and possibly how long they can be up before they must be removed.

So now having an in depth understanding of how confusing all these rules are that need to be applied  (square footage and an associated height requirement are the most mathematically challenging), I put my sign request together, showing the signs I wanted (3 copies required with each request), descriptions of each sign (materials, fastening, method of support), its location including number of feet from roadways and access points, and description & purpose.

I had four signs, and to be honest once I was in the groove cranking out all this info., it didn't take too long. But to really understand which technical statute they each fell into was beyond me. Was a sign intended to promote the bank a "Construction Sign"? This is one of those temporary signs that state "Another building project financed by ABC Bank" . And then I had a sign to be mounted just outside the building promoting the Winery. It was 500' off the major road and you couldn't see it in a drive buy if you squinted. Why does this need to be approved anyway ? And then there was the sign by our entrance. I sort of knew where this one fell, and fortunately it was sized appropriately. And then there is this sign, being used as a directional sign out by the main road that is a 1/4 mile away from our entrance, so I guess this is a "directional" sign.

So in the end I was able to get them all approved, with no debate I might add. I would like to think it was because of my prep work, but deep down I suspect it might be more because I am one of the few people who actually tried to follow the statutes before I erected a sign. The Planning Director said that about 7 signs come in for approvals annually; my request was over half their quota.

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