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Lights out: Council says no to churches' signs [Virginian - Pilot]
[January 22, 2014]

Lights out: Council says no to churches' signs [Virginian - Pilot]

(Virginian - Pilot Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) By Jeff Sheler The Virginian-Pilot CHESAPEAKE The City Council rejected a proposal Tuesday to allow churches to have electronic signs with animated images and scrolling messages in residential neighborhoods.

The Planning Commission and city staff members had recommended rejecting the proposed ordinance, saying it would result in a proliferation of light-emitting diode - or LED - signs that would erode the "visual integrity" of residential areas.

Under current law, churches that want such signs must obtain zoning variances or conditional-use permits, and a few have been granted. The ordinance would have granted blanket approval with certain restrictions.

The council rejected it by a unanimous vote.

In other action, the council heard an update on plans to turn over management of the city's money-losing conference center to a private firm effective Feb. 1.

Staff members said the company, VenuWorks, based in Ames, Iowa, has the expertise to run the $9 million city-owned facility more efficiently and bring an end to annual operating deficits.

Under a proposed contract set for a council vote next week, the company would receive $96,000 per year in management fees plus commissions and incentives for improving the center's performance.

The center has seen bookings and revenues decline for years. It has been kept afloat with subsidies of more than $2 million per year from hotel and restaurant taxes.

The council also heard complaints by a group of residents against a proposed change in the city's long-range land-use plan that would allow commercial development in a technology park.

Gene Waters, a former city councilman who lives near the Oakbrooke Business & Technology Center, objected to an amendment that would change the designation of 50 acres at Kempsville Road and Clearfield Avenue from "office/research" to "business/industrial." Waters and others said the change would be "detrimental to the quality of life" by bringing retail and the possibility of high- density residential development to the center. Supporters said there are no plans for residential development at the site.

It was the only objection raised to a large-scale revision of the city's comprehensive plan, a blueprint that will be used to shape zoning and other development-related decisions throughout the city for the next 20 years.

A vote on the revisions is set for Feb. 18.

Jeff Sheler, 757-222-5207, denied Currently, churches that want electronic signs must obtain zoning variances or permits. An ordinance that would have granted blanket approval with certain restrictions was rejected.

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