P&Z approves unlit St. Lukes cross
Altered sign package
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a
sign package for the new St. Lukes medical development south of Ketchum after making
several revisions to the plan.
During a three-hour meeting at the old Blaine County Courthouse on
Thursday, the commissioners eliminated two of the 10 signs St. Lukes had proposed as
a "way-finding system" for its new hospital during a July 27 public hearing.
Commissioners also considered increasing the height and altering the text of some signs.
Following P&Z criticism during the July 27 meeting, St. Lukes
planners said they would eliminate internal lighting for some of the signs and instead
illuminate them with external bulbs directed at the lettering from within an over-hanging
"All signs will be lit from above, not backlit," St. Lukes
chief architectural planner Jeff Hull said.
A 53-square-foot, aluminum, wall-mounted sign at the building entrance
that reads "St. Lukes Wood River Medical Center" will be lit from behind
so that it has a blue glowing halo. St. Lukes officials said the sign will be turned
off every night after visiting hours endusually around 9 p.m.
During a telephone conversation after the meeting, commission chairman Tom
Bowman said even though the light source is inside the sign, he does not consider it
internally lit because the sign is opaque.
St. Lukes representatives also said also they would reduce the
"urban feel" of some signs by decreasing their bulk.
The two eliminated signs include a cross logo hospital planners had
designed for the buildings south-facing facade and a nearly 9-foot-tall, 11- to
14-foot-wide brick-and-wood monument-like sign at the centers south entrance.
The six commissioners, however, unanimously approved one, unlit, brushed
aluminum, 60-square-foot cross logo mounted nearly 40 feet high on the buildings
The commission rejected the monument-like sign at the south entrance with
a tie vote. Commissioners Suzanne Orb, Lynette Drewien and Tom Bowman voted against the
A similar sign at the northern entrance to the hospital gained approval
with a four-to-two vote, commissioners Joel Graff and Lynette Drewien voting against.
The commissioners unanimously approved the remaining six signs, including
a 21-square-foot, wall-mounted emergency room banner-like sign and on-campus directional
The P&Z also approved a sign for a medical office building it recently
denied. St. Lukes will be allowed to build the sign only if a current appeal of the
office building decision to the board of county commissioners is successful.
St. Lukes chief planner, John Gaeddert, said he felt a "gut
wrench" when chairman Bowman suggested St. Lukes change the words "medical
center" to "hospital" on the entry sign north of the hospital. The
commission eventually voted to approve the change.
The word "hospital," Bowman said, is more easily recognized by
locals and foreign tourists alike than "medical center."
"What is a medical center?" he asked, "a collection of
teachers and students?"
Hospital CEO Jon Moses told the meeting the elimination of the south
entrance sign "got under my craw."
The commission disallowed the sign with a tie vote because it is not
"effectively a directive sign," commissioner Suzanne Orb said in her motion to
deny. Rather, it was an "identification" sign, she said.
What relevance that had to the commissions approval or disapproval
was unclear. But chairman Bowman said directional signs are "never on top of where
you have to make a decision," as he claimed the south entrance monument-like sign
"Im afraid if we have a sign [at the south entrance],
were not going to be able to show our faces in this county," he said.
County rules allow only one 20-square-foot sign per business in the area
where St. Lukes is building its hospital, because the area is zoned for recreational
According to county planning rules, the P&Z could only grant an
exception to the 20-square-foot rule if St. Lukes showed that physical limitations
of its building sitenot self-imposed conditionscreate an undue hardship that
makes the expanded sign plan necessary.
During the meeting, chairman Bowman said, "the hardship is that the
sign ordinance didnt anticipate this size building when it was written in
St. Lukes planner Gaeddert said St. Lukes had two hardships:
there is no direct access from the highway; and there are two different traffic speeds in
The commission agreed to allow the south entrance monument sign, located
adjacent to the highway directly above the bike path tunnel, in the event that the Idaho
Transportation Department fails to install traditional blue "H" and other
Other positive findings the commission had to make before approving the
package included determining whether it conflicts with the public interest, whether it is
detrimental to the public health, whether it effects a change in zoning and whether it is
injurious to the property of others.
Before deciding that St. Lukes could not derive a reasonable use of
its land without approval of the package, chairman Bowman said, "I think weve
made a finding that the county is basically in partnership with this hospital."