Lukes chief architectural planner Jeff Hull, right, told commissioners the
hospitals sign package will help people locate the facility, which is "very
well screened" from Highway 75. Planning and Zoning commissioners Jerry Allred and
Theresa Comber, left, look on. Express photo by David N. Seelig
St. Lukes presents way-finding system
P&Z criticizes urban signs
"These are very urban signs, and youre not in an urban
Commissioner Theresa Comber
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
Planners for St. Lukes new hospital south of Ketchum once again
Thursday night struggled with the vagaries of trying to build a major medical facility in
an area zoned for recreational uses when they sought county P&Z approval for a sign
St. Lukes chief of architectural planning, Jeff Hull, told
commissioners the hospital needs 10 internally illuminated or backlit signs totaling some
367 square feet to provide a foolproof "way-finding system" for hospital
visitors and patients.
But county zoning rules allow only one unlit, or indirectly lit, sign no
larger than 20 square feet per business in the area.
For commissioners to grant an exception to that rule, St. Lukes must
show that physical characteristics of its hospital site create an undue hardship. For
reasons that were unclear, St. Lukes made little or no mention of hardship, but
rather focused on what it feels is the absolute necessity of its proposed signs.
St. Lukes planner John Gaeddert told commissioners that the
exceptioncalled a varianceappears to be the only tool available to get the
signs approved, but they "would be willing to use any vehicle the county could
Commissioners, too, steered clear of the "undue hardship" issue.
They questioned the necessity of two 60- to 75-square-foot backlit corporate cross logos
St. Lukes plans to mount near the top of the hospitals 40-foot-high south and
Commissioners were also critical of the signs internal illumination
and of plans to locate some of the signs adjacent to Highway 75, which is an area reserved
for public traffic signs.
Commissioner Theresa Comber said, "These are very urban signs, and
youre not in an urban setting here."
Reaching a final agreement on the sign plan will require "a balance
between public needs and a rural community," said commission chair Suzanne Orb.
After more than two hours, commissioners postponed more discussion of the
issue until 6:30 p.m., Aug. 17, at the old Blaine County Courthouse.
St. Lukes will need to gain approval of its package and build the
signs before the hospitals planned opening in December.
Planner Hull said the signs are needed for the hospital to be licensed by
the Joint Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
The licensing exempts the hospital from state inspections and is also a
status symbol. The licensing organization, Hull said, lays out guidelines for hospital
signs, and its accreditation process begins with inspectors "trying to find the
Regardless of the need to meet those guidelines, Hull set off a round of
laughter when he said the hospital is "very well screened" from Highway 75, and
that people will need highly visible signs to find the facility.
St. Lukes officials said their sign plan is justified because they
are trying to prevent "one bad outcome" that could result from a patient getting
"Approval of the sign package would not be setting a precedent,"
Gaeddert said. "We have a true public safety use."
"Were not like a gas station trying to promote a corporate
image," Hull said.
Commissioners agreed that many of the proposed signs, if not in their
current large, backlit form, were needed for a safe hospital. But nobody, except those
associated with St. Lukes, liked the idea of the large, glowing cross logos.
When asked what role the logos will play in the way-finding system, Hull
said, "thats a good question." In bad weather, he said, they would help
make the hospital visible from far away.
Will Storey, chair of the Community Councila hospital governing body
that will become the new St. Lukes board of directors in the Wood River Valley in
Decemberoffered another role. The signs, he said, would promote a "spirit of
volunteerism and a spirit of qualitythe logo symbolizes that."
"Do we need it?" he asked. "No
but I would be
embarrassed if we say, You cant use your symbol."
Jay Coleman of Bellevue, speaking during the public comment session, said
the problem goes deeper than just the sign package currently on the table.
"We still do not know the whole picture of St. Lukes at
McHanville," he said.
"This St. Lukes application has been nothing but a series of
piecemeal exceptions. Add the exceptions up and youve got a de facto rezone without
the benefit of a public hearing."