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For the week of July 26 through August 1, 2000

St. Luke’s signs dispute on agenda

Two mounted crosses appear controversial

The two large Christian cross logos seem to be at the center of that controversy.

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy Blaine County Planning and Zoning
St. Luke’s is asking for an exception to a county ordinance so it can display two corporate logos mounted nearly 40-feet high and backlit in blue on its new hospital. St. Luke’s also wants to build a large, brick sign for a medical office building P&Z recently denied.

Planners for the new St. Luke’s hospital south of Ketchum and the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission tomorrow night are scheduled to revisit the hospital’s controversial 1998 signage plan.

Proposed signs include two 75-square-foot corporate logos constructed from brushed aluminum, backlit in blue and mounted near the top of the building’s 40-foot-high south and east facing walls. Also proposed, is an emergency entrance marker and several free-standing monument-like brick signs.

Hospital officials have said the signs are crucial to the safe and efficient functioning of a hospital, but some say the signage plan is an offensive corporate overstatement that ignores local aesthetic values.

The two large Christian cross logos seem to be at the center of that controversy.

St. Luke’s has made application for an exception to a county ordinance, which allows one informational sign in conjunction with commercial or industrial uses, provided the sign is no more than 20 square feet in area and is indirectly lit or unlit.

Hospital planners propose 10 signs totaling 367 square feet around the new medical complex. Many of the proposed signs would be made from translucent materials that are backlit.

That plan represents a reduction of 50-square feet from the hospital’s 1998 plan.

The hospital’s original construction application two years ago included a section that called for 15 signs. But St. Luke’s and the P&Z decided to separate the signage issues for later consideration so that a timely decision on the rest of the hospital application could be made.

With the hospital opening scheduled for early December, St. Luke’s officials are looking for a quick decision during tomorrow night’s 6:30 p.m. meeting in the old Blaine County Courthouse.

For P&Z commissioners to grant approval of the plan, St. Luke’s must show that an "undue hardship" exists because of site characteristics. And, county rules specify the variance must not conflict with the public interest.

Because county rules allow only one 20-square-foot identification sign, an eight-page staff report says, P&Z will need to determine what hardship exists for St. Luke’s before granting approval on the two 75-square-foot logos.

The cross logo, the report says, also appears in smaller form on six of the other proposed signs.

One of the four monuments St. Luke’s proposes pertains to a medical office building. But because plans for that building were denied by P&Z this spring and an appeal to that decision is still pending, county staff say the sign should be disallowed. Because the building is not yet approved, no finding of undue hardship can be made, the staff report says.

Just what future purpose the sign would serve in the event the appeal fails is unclear.

St. Luke’s written application says its five monument signs are 21-square-feet in size. Drawings for the signs, however, call for them to be housed in nearly eight-foot-high, eight-foot-wide masonry structures with brick support columns and tiled roofs. Sign lettering would appear in the center of the structure on blue Lexan (like Plexiglas), with fluorescent interior illumination.

Another issue likely to come up is location of the hospital identification monument. That sign is proposed to be in the public right of way, which county code reserves for signs relating to traffic control.

Because a standard blue "H" sign will appear on the highway north and south of the hospital, the county staff report recommends P&Z deny the monument.


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