About The Visual Code Update
The City of Topeka Planning & Development Department has undertaken a comprehensive update to the City’s sign code, commercial building design standards, and landscape & screening requirements. This is the first of its kind (except for Downtown and historic districts) that would apply to new signs/commercial buildings city-wide. Enhancing Topeka’s quality of place and community aesthetic have been key objectives of the update while also making a more user-friendly sign code. We have completed the updates to Landscaping & Screening Regulations and Design Standards for Non-residential Buildings. Information about these updates is below.
In progress: Sign Code Update
Consideration by the Governing Body
August 13, 2019 – A presentation was given to the Governing Body at their regular meeting. The item is expected to go before them for a vote September 10.
Public Hearing Held (Topeka Planning Commission)
May 20, 2019 – The Topeka Planning Commission held a public hearing at their regular meeting and voted to forward the proposed sign code update (with changes) to the Governing Body with a recommendation for approval.
Presentation to the Topeka Planning Commission
March 18, 2019 – A presentation was given to the Topeka Planning Commission at their regular meeting.
Public Meetings Held
In February the Planning & Development Department hosted two public meetings to provide information about the status of a new sign code proposal for the City.
1:00PM Tuesday, February 26 6:00PM Tuesday, February 26
Meeting location: Marvin Auditorium Room 101B at the Topeka/Shawnee County Public Library
The agenda and content for each of the two meetings was the same. Each meeting included a presentation by Planning staff, a question and answer period, and open house afterwards.
Will the sign code update include temporary signs?
Yes. This is a comprehensive update so temporary and permanent signs will be covered in order to have legally defensible sign code that reflects Topeka conditions. This includes a review of standards for portable signs.
How does the Supreme Court decision effect sign regulations?
Sign codes cannot regulate based on content of the sign. The general rule of thumb is…if you have to read the sign to regulate it, it will probably not pass constitutional muster.
Will these new regulations impact existing signs or buildings?
It should not as the new standards will only apply to new signs or commercial buildings erected on properties.
A total of 1,062 people took our Visual Appeal Survey, with 386 providing comments on the sign section. Thank you to all who participated!
About our Completed Updates
Documents for review
- Amendment to Landscape & Screening Regulations
- Summary of Changes to Landscape & Screening Regulations
- Design Standards for Non-residential Buildings
- Building type examples for non-residential buildings
Topeka Planning Commission / Governing Body Approval
ACZR18/01 (Design Standards for Non-residential Buildings) and ACZR18/03 (Special Use Landscape Requirements) were presented to the Topeka Planning Commission for discussion at their August 20, 2018 meeting and for action at their September 17, 2018 meeting. Following a public hearing for each, the cases were approved by the Planning Commission and forwarded on to the Governing Body for final action. Both were approved by the Governing Body.
On July 25, 2018 the Topeka Planning & Development Department hosted a Developer Forum. The Building Design presentation slides shown during the forum can be viewed here.
A total of 1,062 people took our Visual Appeal Survey, with 480 providing comments on the building section and 386 on the sign section. Thank you to all who participated!
About The Visual Code Update
The City of Topeka Planning & Development Department is undertaking a comprehensive update to the City’s sign code and commercial building design standards. This is the first of its kind (except for Downtown and historic districts) that would apply to new signs/commercial buildings city-wide. Enhancing Topeka’s quality of place and community aesthetic are key objectives of the update while also making a more user-friendly sign code.
While the need for such an update to the city’s visual codes is not new, several factors have accelerated the idea to action:
- A recent Supreme Court decision (Reed v Town of Gilbert) set new parameters for local sign codes and content-neutrality
- Momentum 2022 places a high priority on enhancements to quality of place and aesthetics for economic development
- Recent adoption of new Downtown sign and building design standards
- The City’s Land Use and Growth Management Plan’s emphasis on in-fill development and rehabilitation of existing structures
- This is a best practice implemented by most other cities of our size
About the Process
City of Topeka Planning Staff worked with a technical advisory committee to develop a draft set of code revisions. Committee members include representatives of the sign industry and local design professionals being guided by a national expert on sign/building design codes. The draft code is anticipated to be presented to the Topeka Planning Commission within 6 months who will make a recommendation to the Governing Body for ultimate adoption.
Public engagement will include a Visual Appeal Survey (VAS), community forum, meeting with special interest groups, and public hearings before the Planning Commission and Governing Body.
The VAS is a visual-based survey that includes a series of images broken down into two parts 1) commercial buildings and 2) signs. Survey results will help shape standards in the draft code update.