A committee has been formed to study Duluth’s sign ordinance over the next three to four months.
Chris McGahee, the city’s economic development manager, disclosed the names of persons appointed to serve on the committee at the Tuesday (Nov. 27) meeting of the Duluth Downtown Development Authority.
The sign committee so far includes Duluth City Council members Jim Dugan and Marsha Bomar, DDA member Maxine Garner, former Duluth Planning Commission Chairman Greg Lock, downtown building owner David Cossette, sign company owner Mike Johnson, Duluth accountant Glenn Sarver, and Ty Jaiyeoba.
The committee will explore the city’s current sign ordinance and make recommendations for changes to the city council, McGahee said. “It’s an information-gathering body,” he said.
DDA member Greg Lindquist, who operates the Best of Brews on Main Street, reiterated his opinion that the committee should have a member representing downtown merchants and another member representing merchants outside downtown. Lindquist had commented that merchants should be represented at last month’s DDA meeting when McGahee reported that the committee was being created by the city.
“I don’t agree,” said McGahee at last night’s meeting. Downtown business signs are subject to additional regulations because they are located in a historic preservation district, he explained.
Downtown businesses are located in the city’s Core Preservation District, and the CPD-C (Commercial) Review Board regulates downtown signs, Garner added. “There’s no need to involve downtown merchants [in the sign committee],” she said.
Lindquist persisted and gave the example of his downtown business located in a narrow storefront at the corner of Main and West Lawrenceville streets. His storefront frontage is not large enough to allow him to put up a sign that could be seen well from the street, Lindquist said. A nearby city, he said, allows businesses in his situation to count front and side frontage and multiply by .75 to arrive at a larger sign size.
Garner reported that the committee recently had its first meeting. Members are taking photos of signs they like and signs they don’t like in the city, she said.
The committee meetings are open to the public.
The DDA authorized payment of a $111,550 bill from Bennett Construction for stabilizing and rebuilding the end wall and stopping basement flooding at the Red Clay Theatre.
The DDA also approved paying invoices from Hill, Foley Rossi totaling $23,000 to design the RCT improvements, $400 to rent security fencing at the site, and $250 to replace a fire box.
Eddie Owen, who books concerts and manages the city-owned RCT, reported that he is in the process of getting bids to build out the basement to create seven sound-protected classrooms for a music school. The green room and two dressing rooms already in the basement would remain.
McGahee informed the DDA that the owner of the property across Main Street from Duluth City Hall had agreed to demolish the concrete-block building and possibly other buildings on the site. The owner had been cited by the city for code violations for failing to maintain the structure, McGahee said. The building is expected to be torn down by Dec. 18, he said.
City Manager Tim Shearer reported that city staff are looking at replacing the crape myrtles along Main Street with canopy trees that don't block the fronts of the stores and their signs.