The Ghost of Sign Wars Still Haunting Woodland Park

 

Billboard px468-0

by Beth Dodd

 

 

At the November 5 meeting of the Woodland Park DDA, the ghost of the old sign debate reared its ugly head once more. As the development of the new Woodland Station moves forward, its first new building, Woodland Hardware, has submitted a request for a signage rule change to accommodate proposed signs on the front of the business.

The Woodland Station area, once the location of the Woodland Park Saddle Club and Rodeo, is contained by U.S. Highway 24 on the north, Columbine Ave to the south, West Street on the west, and Fairview Street on the east. Future business signs there are governed by the Woodland Station Overlay District rather than the general Woodland Park Sign Code. The Overlay District was created back in 2007 during the first aborted attempt to develop the site.

At the Nov. 5 DDA meeting the owners of Woodland Hardware, Kelly and Gene Rodarmel, requested an adjustment to the rules of the Overlay District. Their request would allow approximately 25 % larger signage on their building than the rules now permit. The size increase would be in proportion to the size of their new building, which is bigger than anything anticipated in the original plans for the Woodland Station Overlay District. They would also like to have one piece of the building’s signage backlit at night. The existing rules do not allow backlighting of signs.

According to Woodland Hardware owner Kelly Rodarmel, whose business is currently located in leased space in the lower level of Gold Hill Square South below Sherwin Williams Paint, the current sign code says a lot about what is not allowed, but is not specific about what is allowed. The store’s new building needs representation and identification in the public eye, and the signs must be big enough to be seen. The front of the building is visible from West Street, but has no visual presence on U.S. Hwy 24.

In addition, the proposed rule changes to the Woodland Station Overlay District would pave the way for a possible monument sign for Woodland Station at Center Street and U.S. Hwy 24. The monument sign would be a large freestanding sign to identify the whole area rather than an individual business. The current rules do not address the requirements for monument signs. The rule change would also permit an electronic or digital sign for an event center, which is part of the proposal for Woodland Station. Finally, the rules change would require that all sign permits be reviewed and approved by the DDA’s Design Review Committee.

The request for the rule changes created some debate among the members of the DDA, with multiple queries directed at Brian Fleer, the head of Woodland Park’s Office of Economic & Downtown Development. The need to have a separate sign ordinance for Woodland Station in the first place, after the city spent 28 months painstakingly crafting a new sign code concluding in April 2010, was questioned. Apparently, this sort of rule separation is not unusual for a large pre-planned development seeking to create a uniformity of design.

Woodland Park City Manager, David Buttery, clarified for the meeting participants that the Woodland Park Sign Code and the Woodland Station Overlay District are separate and should not be confused with one another. He also commented that, “The Woodland Park business community wanted it in black and white what they can and cannot do with their signage. The original idea when the Overlay District was created seven years ago was to have small boutique shops. This building doesn’t fit that.”

In the end, it was decided that the proposed sign rule change should be tabled so that the DDA’s Design review committee could take a closer look at the proposed changes, as they did not have the opportunity to do so prior to the November 5 meeting. It was also thought to be premature to work out the details of signage before the overall vision of the Woodland Station was agreed upon. A new design concept developed by the Colorado Springs landscape architecture firm NES was presented and approved later in the same meeting.

If the DDA decides to approve changes to the overlay district at its December meeting, the changes would still have to be reviewed and approved by the Woodland Park Planning Department and the City Council. In the meanwhile, the new Woodland Hardware Building is rapidly approaching completion without a clear directive on how it is allowed to identify itself.