Fraser – Grand Park seeks ‘variety’ in changes to sign plan
August 27, 2009
Fraser, Colorado – Although temporary banners promote an organic grocery market, a real estate agency and a gasoline station, permanent signage is notably missing at Grand Park’s nascent town village, which eventually will feature 200,000 square feet of commercial space.
Grand Park General Manager Clark Lipscomb has the vision of the Fraser development’s upcoming “town center” – with banners on poles at street corners, signs on storefront roofs similar to those found in Grand Lake, projectional and hanging signs denoting a cafe, bar or an ice cream parlor, an old-fashioned marquee signaling a movie theater, or an artful mural sign on the side of brick building like the Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs.
It’s now a matter of translating that vision into codes on which town stewards and townspeople can agree.
To Lipscomb, the character of the signage on a building is as important as the architecture itself.
“What I want is variety: Creative, quality, variety,” said Lipscomb, summarizing his ideas. “Creative, quality variety in signage lends itself to a place’s longevity and success.”
Since February, the Fraser Planning Commission has been poring over a proposed amendment to the Grand Park master sign code that, when finalized, would serve to govern signage on three blocks and several multi-story buildings in the planned town center.
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Fraser’s code requires planned developments of more than 100 acres to submit a sign plan for the development.
The planning commission has forwarded its recommendation to town trustees, approving the sign code with 23 conditions during a special meeting on Aug. 12.
“This has been a very collaborative effort with the planning commission,” Lipscomb said. “And the process, in my view, has greatly improved the sign plan. The planning commission was very helpful in raising issues, and saying, ‘Have you thought about this?’ And at the end of the day, the sign plan with the planning commission is far improved (compared to) the one that was submitted at the beginning of the year.”
The amended sign code as written, he said, has control mechanisms in place, but “works with the scale of the architecture and allows for a successful sign plan that allows for a successful business platform.”
The Grand Park village design mimics traditional Colorado towns, like Idaho Springs, Glenwood Springs, Leadville or Breckenridge. The buildings are similar to those from the late 1800s to early 1900s, with large 16-foot-tall ground floor retail spaces, like that of Beau Jo’s Pizza in Idaho Springs, Lipscomb pointed out. For the Fraser Valley resort area, the village should have signage that embraces good design and works well with the spirit of the village, he said.
The sign code spells out what’s prohibited, but also allows “a broad variety of signs,” he said. “A lot of definitions of sign types are allowed in the village. It’s critical to give artists and sign designers the creative latitude to design something that stands out, yet meshes with the architecture of the building, as opposed to standard strip-center signage that’s a simple box sign.”
An example of what wouldn’t be allowed, Lipscomb said, is the “plastic box sign – an aluminum box with a sheet of plastic with something printed on it. That’s exactly what I don’t want, what I won’t allow. Visibly, it’s a deterrent to the resort visitor.”
On storefronts, a sign ratio of one linear foot per three feet of storefront has tentatively been written into the code. Fraser’s town sign code allows for 50 square feet per storefront.
But there remains ambiguity for stores located on corners, according to Fraser Town Planner Catherine Trotter, and she wonders if the ratio might be too generous.
Lipscomb said he has pleasing visual examples of how the ratio works with signs on the plane of a building as well as perpendicular to a building.
The Grand Park master sign plan originally was approved in 2006, and now that the planned development’s village is starting to take shape along with a community recreation center, Grand Park officials are honing a plan that would allow freestanding signs to attract motorists off of Highway 40.
Grand Park proposes 50 square-foot signs every 100 lineal feet of lot or block frontage along U.S. Highway 40, from north of the recreation center building to near the Pine Tree Plaza in Winter Park.
In planning notes to town trustees, Trotter warned the freestanding signs could have potential for “visual clutter” and per town code, cannot extend over a public right of way.
Lipscomb said the proposed freestanding signs would be located only where buildings are – not encroaching public rights of way – and would be harmonious to the scale of those buildings. He noted that freestanding signs are found throughout the town of Fraser.
But according to Trotter, the code as written opens Grand Park up to as many as 18 freestanding signs along Highway 40 in addition to those already in existence.
“It’s a fine line between economic development and visual discord,” Trotter said.
“Sign programs are hard,” Lipscomb said. “Everybody has their own idea of what might look good and what might not. The last thing that I would want to do at my village, the Grand Park village, would be to do something that would negatively impact it from a visitor-experience perspective. I want visitors coming here.”
Any type sign a business owner would submit for its storefront would have two tiers of review, Lipscomb said: first by the Grand Park Design Review Board, then submission to the town of Fraser for permitting.
“We’d love for him to have new signs up there,” Trotter said, adding that the sign code proposed, if approved, could open the door for revised sign standards in the rest of Fraser.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.