Memo-10-11-2016-Item12

MEMO TO: Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM: Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT: Ordinance Amending Chapter 6 – Development Standards – of the Unified Development Ordinance in Order to Provide an Alternative Sign Area Formula for Individual Businesses with Large Street Frontage - Summary & Suggested Motions

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the attached ordinance amendment that would allow larger businesses to utilize an alternative formula for calculating the maximum wall sign area for business identification signs.  Under the alternative formula, the maximum wall sign area for individual businesses with more than 150 linear feet of street frontage would be equal to 0.50 square feet per linear foot of building frontage, and would promote business identification signs that are proportional to the scale of the building or storefront. 

The attached ordinance amendment is requested by C4 Emerald Isle LLC, the developer of a proposed new grocery store.  The proposed new grocery store includes approximately 230 linear feet of frontage along the Emerald Drive frontage, and approximately 170 linear feet along the Emerald Landing Drive frontage.  Under the Town’s current sign ordinance, the building would be limited to 32 square feet of wall sign area along the Emerald Drive frontage and 16 square feet of frontage along the Emerald Landing Drive frontage, which would result in very small signs relative to the size of the proposed building.  Under the formula included in the attached ordinance amendment, the new grocery store would be allotted a total of 115 square feet along Emerald Drive and 85 square feet along Emerald Landing Drive.  (The Board should note that the developer has indicated that the wall signs for the proposed new grocery store ideally would be 75 square feet along each frontage.)  I have attached building elevations for the proposed new grocery store that illustrate the wall signs permitted under the current sign ordinance, and also utilizing the desired 75 sq. ft. wall signs for the Board’s information. 

To help the Board and the public better understand the Town’s current sign ordinance and the attached ordinance amendment, I have summarized each below.  I have also included a discussion of a simple variation on the attached ordinance amendment that would apply the alternative formula to all businesses in Emerald Isle, regardless of the amount of building frontage.

Current Sign Ordinance

The Town’s current sign ordinance allows each business to have 32 square feet of wall signage, regardless of the size of the building or the number of businesses in a building.  Under the current ordinance, a business that fronts on more than one street is also allowed an additional 16 square feet of signage (48 square feet total), but no one side of the building can exceed 32 square feet.  The Board amended this ordinance in May 2015 to assist existing businesses that have frontage on more than one public or private street, and added the additional 16 square feet allowance.  Prior to May 2015, all businesses were limited to 32 square feet.

The current sign ordinance limit achieves an effective balance between business exposure and community aesthetic goals for businesses that are located in buildings or storefronts with small street frontage amounts, and works particularly well in multi-tenant strip commercial centers.  However, the 32 square feet limit is not practical for larger buildings or storefronts with a larger amount of frontage, and results in business identification signs that are not proportional to the scale of the building or storefront.

For example, each of the 4 businesses in the commercial building that houses South Swell Surf Shop, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove’s Travel, and Mike Lincoln PA are permitted to utilize up to 32 square feet each, or a grand total of 128 square feet.  That building has approximately 100 linear ft. of frontage.  In contrast, the CVS building is allowed one sign that is 32 square feet in size (only one business in the building), and it has a total of 150 linear ft. of frontage along NC 58. 

Requested Ordinance Amendment

The attached ordinance amendment is requested by C4 Emerald Isle LLC, however, the language was drafted by Town staff in an attempt to help the developer achieve his goals, but in a way that is consistent with the Town’s values and in a way that would not result in an excessive amount of wall signage.

As you know, our community prides itself on its aesthetic quality, and has always been sensitive to sign issues.  As such, the attached ordinance amendment was intentionally drafted in such a way that it would actually allow less sign area than would be allowed if the proposed grocery store building is developed with several tenants in a typical strip shopping center style.  The attached ordinance amendment allows for an alternative formula to be used only by large businesses (that have 150 linear feet of frontage or more), and would only allow 0.50 square feet of wall sign area per linear foot.  A building that has more than one street frontage would simply apply the same formula for each of two street frontages. 

To demonstrate that the attached ordinance amendment actually allows less wall sign area, it is helpful to consider the same example of the commercial building that houses South Swell Surf Shop, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove’s Travel, and Mike Lincoln PA.  In that case, the building is 100 linear feet with 4 businesses, and is allowed a maximum of 128 total square feet of wall sign area (4 times 32 square feet).  If only one business was located in that building, only a total of 50 square feet of wall sign area would be permitted (100 linear feet times 0.50).  As another example, if one assumes that the proposed new grocery store has 6 different storefronts in the 230 linear feet area, it would be allowed a total wall sign area of 192 square feet (6 times 32 square feet) - compared to the 115 square feet. allowed under the alternative formula included in the attached ordinance amendment.

It's important to note that the requested ordinance amendment would also apply to any existing businesses in Emerald Isle that exceed 150 linear feet of frontage:  Islander Suites, Bert’s Surf Shop (new), Food Lion, Pacific, Wings, Bogue Inlet Motel, Oceanview Inn, and CVS.  These buildings are currently limited to 32 sq. ft. total sign area, and under the attached ordinance amendment they could utilize anywhere from 75 sq. ft. to 130 sq. ft. of wall signs, depending on the amount of frontage.  (Please see attached memo from Town Planner Josh Edmondson for details.)

The Planning Board reviewed the attached ordinance amendment at its August 22 meeting, and recommends approval of the ordinance amendment. 

Alternate Approach?

An alternate approach that the Board may wish to consider is a simple variation of the attached ordinance amendment. Under this alternate approach, any business (not only the businesses with 150 linear feet or more of frontage) would have the option of using the alternative sign area formula (0.50 square feet of wall sign area per linear feet of frontage) for wall signs. 

Considering the fact that the alternative sign area formula is optional, it is likely that the only businesses that would utilize the alternative formula are those with more than 64 linear feet of frontage (64 times 0.50 = 32 square feet). If a business has, for example, 50 linear feet of frontage, then the alternative formula would only allow 25 square feet of wall sign area, and it would be more advantageous to use the current ordinance option for up to 32 square feet.  Most businesses in Emerald Isle have less than 64 linear feet of frontage, and most likely would continue to rely on the current ordinance option.  The Emerald Isle businesses that have more than 64 linear feet of frontage but less than 150 linear feet of frontage are listed below, along with the maximum sign area that would be permitted under the alternative formula:

Beach Mart

90 linear feet along Coast Guard Rd. (45 square feet)
82 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (41 square feet)

Speedway   

65 linear feet along Coast Guard Rd. (32.5 square feet)
Also has frontage on Emerald Drive and Crew Drive

Water Boggan

66 linear feet along Islander Drive (33 square feet)
Also has frontage on Reed Drive

Transportation Impact       

107 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (53.5 square feet)
107 linear feet along Crew Dr.  (53.5 square feet)

Caribsea

107 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (53.5 square feet)
107 linear feet along Crew Dr.  (53.5 square feet)

Sound Ace Hardware

98 linear feet along Emerald Plantation Rd (49 square feet)
94 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (42 square feet)

Bluewater Realty

72 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (36 square feet)
72 linear feet along Reed Dr.  (36 square feet)

BB&T

80 linear feet along Fairview Dr. (40 square feet)
Also has frontage along Emerald Drive

Trading Post

68 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (34 square feet)

Bert’s Surf Shop

85 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (42.5 square feet)
70 linear feet along Bogue Inlet Dr. (35 square feet)

Jordan’s Seafood

90 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (45 square feet)
Also has frontage along Bogue Inlet Dr.

BP

64 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (32 square feet)
Also has frontage along Loblolly Street

Reel Outdoors

88 linear feet along Emerald Dr (44 square feet)
Also has frontage along Cedar Street

Shorewood Realty

90 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (45 square feet)
Also has frontage along Cedar Street

Century 21

90 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (45 square feet)
Also has frontage along Live Oak Street

Emerald Isle Realty

96 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (48 square feet)
92 linear feet along Black Skimmer (46 square feet)

Pipeline Plumbing

100 linear feet along Black Skimmer (50 square feet)
Also has frontage along Emerald Dr.

Emerald Isle Mini-Mart

88 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (44 square feet)

Dollar General

132 linear feet along Emerald Dr. (66 square feet).

As you can see, in most cases, the increase in sign area would go from 32 square feet to 40 – 45 square feet per business, which likely would not harm the aesthetic quality of Emerald Isle, and may assist these other businesses by providing more flexibility. 

If the Board is interested in pursuing this alternate approach, there are two options available.  One option is to consider the attached ordinance amendment recommended by the Planning Board at the October 11 meeting, and then direct the Planning Board to study this alternate approach in the future.  Another option would be to simply delete the phrase “For business operations that have more than 150 linear feet of frontage on a street” from the attached ordinance amendment and consider this alternate approach at the October 11 meeting. 

Ordinance Amendments and Other Board Actions Approved to Foster and Promote Quality New Development

As noted above, the attached ordinance amendment is requested by the developer of the proposed new grocery store, and is an important consideration for the developer to achieve their project goals. 

As you know, the Town routinely attempts to assist applicants for new development achieve their project goals, and works closely with applicants to help them prepare a project plan that results in quality development and that is consistent with the community’s values.  In some cases, no ordinance amendments or other Board actions are required to achieve the applicant’s goals, however, in some cases it is necessary or beneficial for the applicant and/or the community to consider amendments or other Board actions.

The Board of Commissioners has previously approved ordinance amendments and other actions that have enabled many existing, quality development projects to be constructed in Emerald Isle.  In each case, Town staff, the Planning Board, and the Board of Commissioners worked hard to insure that any approved ordinance amendments or other actions were consistent with the community’s values, were consistent with the spirt of the Town’s Land Use Plan and development ordinances, and did not harm the overall aesthetic quality or the Town’s small-town, family beach atmosphere.  In recent years, projects that were specifically aided by ordinance amendment(s) or other Board action(s) include the Bell Cove Village Shopping Center, Bell Cove Village residential subdivision, Sunset Landing residential subdivision, Sea Oats residential subdivision, the Islander Suites renovation, the redevelopment of the Island Harbor Marina with a new dry-stack facility, and the Transportation Impact building.

Town Planner Josh Edmondson and I look forward to reviewing the attached ordinance amendment with the Board at the October 11 meeting.  A public hearing is required prior to Board consideration, and has been advertised appropriately for the October 11 meeting.