Deadwood hears first reading of ordinance amending sign illumination ordinance

DEADWOOD — Bright lights, big city doesn’t work for Deadwood city officials, as April 5, the Deadwood City Commission heard first reading of an ordinance amending Deadwood’s sign ordinance regarding illumination.

The ordinance seeks to close an unforeseen loophole that does not provide for the prohibition of neon substitutes and alternatives.

The ordinance starts out “within the local historic district, as established by Ordinance No. 777 and any amendment thereto, no internally illuminated signs shall be allowed” and the following language has been added “and only historic landmark signs may utilize direct illumination.”

The word “internally” has also been stricken from the ordinance in the following sentence, which now reads: “All types of (internally) illuminated signs may be allowed outside of the federally designated Deadwood National Historic Landmark District, as indicated on the zoning map.”

“I’m sure you guys have probably noticed, the past three or four months, we’ve had two new additions to our signs downtown. Actually, one right now with Mr. Wu’s which uses a neon substitute, or neon alternative,” said Deadwood Planning and Zoning Director Jeramy Russell. “We also have a couple more that will be coming with Four Points. We did approve those through Planning and Zoning, our sign commission. However, there was some hesitation there. Unfortunately, our ordinance, at the time, didn’t have anything in place that prevented a neon substitute or neon alternative. The only thing that we prevented was use of neon. We were instructed by the Planning and Zoning Commission sign committee to look into making some changes.”

Commissioner Gary Todd asked why there was hesitancy in approving the sign.

Russell said the sign commission understood what the city’s ordinance stated.

“That we had an issue with the neon, but we didn’t have anything in there that prevented the neon substitute or neon alternative, which these signs were using,” Russell said. “So at that point, they couldn’t prevent the sign, they basically couldn’t not allow the sign on that because it wasn’t neon. It was only the tubing, which was not neon. So at that time, we were directed to try to make some changes, try to clean up our ordinance.”

Todd asked if there was a concern with the brightness and if there would be problems at other locations in town.

“We have an illumination problem on one other property on Lower Main,” Todd said. “Are we going to have the same issue on our Main Street with this sign, even though this says neon’s not allowed? Is this going to be a problem?”

Russell said, moving forward, no.

“Because we won’t allow any more. It has to be on a historic sign for it to be approved,” Russell said.

Deadwood Building Inspector Trent Mohr, who rewrote the ordinance, said the illumination problem on Lower Main is an unregulated, shining through the window issue.

“These two signs were approved with direct illumination using the neon replacement that Jeramy talked about,” Mohr said. “The ordinance states that direct illumination cannot cast and cause a problem beyond their own property. So if that, with these two signs that have been approved, if we do get complaints or see it as an issue, then we have the means to go and address it.”

Second reading of the ordinance is slated for the April 19 City Commission meeting.

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