Westerville is considering abolishing its ban on electronic signs within city limits.

At an April 17 meeting, Westerville City Council introduced an ordinance that would establish new rules for property owners, allowing for the use of electronic signs, which had been banned.

According to city planner Jeff Buehler, the ordinance would "eliminate the prohibition on electronic signs" under "limited circumstances with several stipulations."

"Those stipulations are based on the health, safety and welfare of the community and related zoning standards," he said.

Not all properties would be eligible for electronic signs. Parcels using such signs would need to be a minimum of 20 acres and set back at least 10 feet from the public rights of way.

The signs would be classified as a conditional use, and would require the property owners to go through a public hearing process through the city's planning commission before approval.

An option is also on the table for council to change the ordinance to make the signs an administrative task, which would skip the public hearing process.

Mayor Craig Treneff said he would prefer to see the planning-commission portion of the ordinance remain.

"That gives some necessary discretion to the planning commission to address public concerns that might arise, given where the application is," he said.

Under the ordinance, when a property would receive approval for an electronic sign, it would still be subject to several guidelines from the city.

"If a site qualifies, there would be a number of stipulations that would apply to the sign," Buehler said. "The portion of the changeable copy as well as the size of the sign would be regulated. There would be a limit of one per parcel."

Other limits would address color, brightness -- both during the day and at night -- and letter size.

Councilwoman Kathy Cocuzzi asked if such signs would automatically be dimmed at night, and Buehler said most are on a system that allows for timed control of the sign's brightness.

On that topic, council Chairman Mike Heyeck said he didn't want to see the rules be too stringent.

"We don't turn off parking lot lights," he said. "The issue should be whether you're near a residential property that can be seen. I just want to try to be practical with this."

The signs also would not be allowed to have any "effects," according to Buehler.

"That means there's no flashing, no movement, no blink, nothing at all," he said.

City council will hold a public hearing on this topic at its May 15 meeting. For more information and the full text of the ordinance, visit Westerville.org.

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