931 Signs

Signs for businesses along Indiana 931 can be seen in this Jan. 13, 2017, file photo. 

Businesses along Indiana 931 will now have an extra year to lower their high-in-the-sky business signs.

The Kokomo City Council on Monday unanimously approved extending the city’s sunset provision for pole signs along the state road to Jan. 1, 2023.

Previously, businesses were required to lower their signs by Jan. 1, 2022, but Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore thought extending the deadline was appropriate due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative financial effect it has had on businesses.

The new standard, initially approved in 2017, requires businesses in the Indiana 931 overlay district to not have a sign any taller than an 8-foot ground sign. The sign itself also has be no more than 100-square-feet in size. Multi-tenant signs, however, are not affected by the new standard.

Notably, the new standard does not require a business to buy a new sign. If their current sign meets the 100-square-foot size requirement but not the height standard, the businesses can simply lower it.

When the new standard goes into effect, Kokomo will join the growing numbers of communities that are forcing businesses to lower their pole signs, largely for aesthetic reasons.

In the past, businesses constructed large signs for visibility reasons, believing the higher the sign meant more people would see it and thus more customers. No specific height standard, though, has led to main corridors such as 931 to have signs at various heights.

But the “bigger is better” line of thinking when it comes to business signs has fallen out of favor as modern technology, such as GPS, has made it easier than ever to find a business.

Greg Sheline, executive director of the Kokomo-Howard County Plan Commission, said 931 has pole signs from as low as 10 feet to as high as 60 feet, leading to, in his opinion, an ugly main business corridor. That, he believes, will be fixed with the new 8-foot ground sign standard.

“The problem is, if you’re driving down there (Indiana 931), all those signs are getting lost,” Sheline said. “The 8-foot ground signs are going to, number one, make that whole corridor look a whole lot better. Number two, it’s going to put everybody on the same playing field. I think it’s going to increase property values because, right now, 931 is so ugly with all those sizes and types of signs.”

Sheline said nearly 60 businesses have already met compliance with the new standards. His office will begin reaching out to businesses along the corridor at a later date to give them a heads up on the deadline and make sure they meet compliance by the new deadline. Businesses that don’t comply can be fined between $50 to $2,500, but Sheline considers that a last resort.

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich

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