The Development Standards Review Task Force (DSRTF) met Wednesday morning. They discussed major developments issues such as signage and Forum Based Code as well as the issue of parking areas on the Island.
Dr. Sungman Kim, Director of Development Services, approached the podium during the public comments to inform the Task Force of a public workshop on Form Based Code with Gateway Planning who was hired by the city to revitalize Padre Boulevard and the Entertainment District. Task Force members were glad to hear of the workshop with an emphasis on signage and how Form Based Code affects the city’s signage ordinance.
After a quick discussion of minutes, Dr. Kim returned to the podium to give a presentation on Signage Standards along Padre Boulevard and the Entertainment District. On Sept. 3, City Council made an action to allow signage for businesses on side streets to follow the same standards as signage on Padre Boulevard. The DSRTF had discussed concerns about enforcement of the city code, especially for many of the retail businesses on Padre Boulevard. Currently, the code allows for 10 percent of window space to be utilized for sign areas. Many businesses had displayed signs that were larger than the allowed area. They also found a loophole and had begun to use T-shirts and towels as signs to promote sales or deals. The code does allow for products that are for sale to be placed in the windows, but the items were being used as signs. Code enforcement has addressed these issues and some of the signs on Padre Boulevard have been minimized or taken down. Dr. Kim said that staff intent was to see if the DSRTF was satisfied with the enforcement or if they wanted to move forward with further concerns.
Task Force member Gabriel Vanounou, a part of the group that formed the signage ordinance, said that it took years of deliberation to put together. He said, “I personally am in full support of keeping what we designed because we spent years on it.” He stated that creating a subcommittee would bring too many opinions and ideas to an issue that has already been discussed. Vanounou was concerned that the effects and confusion on signage from Forum Based Code was driving potential businesses from the Island. The other Task Force members were in support of his comments. Members chose to leave the window sign ordinance unchanged.
Another issue with signage was that Form Based Code is primarily affecting new business owners, making for an uneven playing field in the retail market. Chairman Gar Treharne pointed out that the rules should not hurt the merchants as long as everyone has to abide by the same rules. Treharne said, “It’s a matter of implementation, interpretation, and enforcement of what we have in place.”
The Task Force was hesitant to allow monument signs in the neighborhood transition areas, entertainment district, ad bay front area but after some debate approved the use of these signs in the aforementioned areas.
Another related topic of discussion was the parking on the Island. The city’s goal is to create a pedestrian friendly strip with store fronts near the street. Behind store parking has been suggested, but there is an issue with space in many areas. Parking garages have been suggested, but the city has a lack of plans as well as funds.
In regards to the parking situation and concerns about signage, the DSRTF was in agreement that the city needs to start looking at plans for the future rather than changing what is already in place. If parking is not addressed, it will become a major issue. For signage, the Task Force decided that they should begin to clearly define issues that may come up, specifically technological advances such as electronic signs. Chaiman Treharne said, “We need to stop looking backward, not even now; a good merchant looks ahead. We need to look ahead.”
The DSRTF requested that Dr. Kim communicate with Gateway to work on an economic plan and to share the issues that need to be addressed at the workshop.