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Signs of a new ordinance

Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on proposed changes to the sign ordinance at a June 30 open house in the City Hall lobby.

The open house will take place from 6 to 7 p.m., and Suffolk Planning and Community Development Department staff will be available to answer questions and accept feedback.

The city was forced to update its sign ordinance as a result of a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case Reed v. Town of Gilbert, which ruled that sign regulations cannot be content-based.

Suffolk is just one of numerous localities that are having to update its ordinance to comply with the decision. City officials have said it could be useful for business owners and real estate professionals to attend the open house to give their feedback also.

“I have a completely new appreciation for signage than I ever did before,” said Interim Deputy City Manager Kevin Hughes during a May 19 City Council work session discussing the topic.

The Planning Commission has weighed in on changes and has recommended their approval to council. However, before council votes on the proposed ordinance, it asked that there be more community and staff input.

Planning staff has been analyzing the current sign regulations to make sure signs are regulated by type and location, and not content.

City planners told the Planning Commission last September that its ordinance was out of compliance and needs updating.

City Planner Kevin Wyne, at the time, told the commission that the update has been about three years in the making, and said planners wanted “to stay true to our current regulations as much as possible.”

Hughes said as much when he and planning staff briefed council last month.

“Some of it is as simple as a terminology change,” Hughes said, “and some of it is a little more in-depth as it relates to how we do permitting or enforcement, things of that nature. But all in all, it’s not a complete swipe or a redo.”

More information

Anyone with questions or comments on the draft sign regulations can call the city’s Planning Division at 757-514-4060, or email them at PlanningEmail@suffolkva.us.

The draft document and links to view the previous City Council presentation on the topic, can be found on the Planning & Community Development website at www.suffolkva.us/1553/Sign-Regulation-Updates.