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Historic Zoning Commission returns to digital sign debate
Methodist church digital sign BW.jpg
Members of McMinnville’s Historic Zoning Commission want to establish firm guidelines on the placement of digital signs in the Downtown Historic District. Pictured is a digital sign at First United Methodist Church, which is in the district.

Changes could be on the horizon for guidelines governing McMinnville’s Historic District. 

The Historic Zoning Commission is considering where digital signs will be allowed following a recent controversy over a digital sign.

“I just really believe that with everything we went through with the Graves that we need to be very clear and specific with our sign policy or guideline or whatever it’s called,” said Historic Zoning Commission member Bobby Kirby. “Under our guideline, I think we should be very specific. I, personally, would like to see that it states very clearly that we prohibit electric message boards at least in these two blocks that I call the core of downtown.”

As described by Kirby, the “core” would be Main Street, from Magness Library to McMinnville Fire Department Station 1, the section of Morford Street between Sparta and Chancery streets, and the areas in between.

“I’ve said this over and over,” said Kirby. “I think digital message boards are out of place and out of character for the historic district.”

Historic Zoning Commission member Tom Ward said, “I agree with the location you’re talking about. I really do.”

The two commission members were on opposites sides of the fence when Chad and Emily Graves requested permission to place a digital message board at 357 W. Main Street. Although located within the historic district, it is not within the core. After a few months that ended with a negotiated agreement, the sign was approved.

“Other cities don’t really allow digital message boards either,” said Kirby. “I think we need to be very clear, very specific and change out guidelines to state we do not allow it in those areas.”

Rachel Kirby suggested expanding that restriction and including the section of Main Street just past Graves Family Pharmacy to Chancery Street, “Can it not end right there at the pharmacy? That’s where the houses are. There are three historic homes right there. I would like to stop it as soon as you can. That would save the homes.”

Existing digital signs would have grandfathered rights. A grandfather clause is a provision in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases. Those exempt from the new rule are said to have grandfather rights or acquired rights, or to have been grandfathered in.

Ward questioned the possibility of limiting the grandfather clause to current businesses as a way of eventually ridding the historic district of digital signs, “Should we add something of that nature that says the sign is grandfathered in for the current business and after that, it won’t be.”

“I think our guidelines need to be very, very clear,” said Historic Zoning Commission member Raven Young.

McMinnville Historic Zoning Commission will meet at the end of March to continue discussions regarding changing the guidelines governing the historic district to prohibit digital signs either in specific areas, or entirely.