The Medford City Council will consider whether to expand zones where 50-foot signs are allowed. - Bob Pennell

Council to ponder tall-sign regulation

MEDFORD — Tall signs advertising businesses off Interstate 5 will remain a fixture in Medford, and possibly more could dot the landscape in the future.

"Big signs are here to stay," said Jim Huber, director of the Medford Planning Department.

Earlier this month, the Medford City Council overrode a Planning Commission decision to no longer allow any new signs measuring 50 feet tall with a maximum 250-square-foot panel.

Instead, the council directed the Planning Department to look at other options, including expanding the area where tall signs are now situated, Huber said.

The city has a special commercial zoning that allows 72 parcels at the north Medford interchange and at Barnett Road to have these signs, which are often visible from the freeway.

The Planning Commission on Monday studied proposals that would address the council's wish to keep tall signs in the city's ordinance.

The issue came up in part because the south Medford interchange was moved farther south. Now, the businesses along Barnett Road have tall signs, while other businesses closer to the new interchange do not.

The Planning Commission concluded tall signs are less useful now, particularly because businesses can get their names on the blue signs along the freeway. In addition, the increasing use of digital location devices helps make it easier for motorists to find a business.

Jerry Anderson, who leases his properties to Food 4 Less, the Shilo Inn, Black Rock Coffee and the former Chevron station on Biddle Road, said he was pleasantly surprised the council overrode the Planning Commission.

"I'd given up all hope," said the 68-year-old Medford resident.

Anderson said operators of businesses such as restaurants, gas stations and hotels believe a highly visible sign is just one more way of getting customers to their doors.

He said motorists do pay attention to the smaller blue signs along the freeway, but he said businesses need as many avenues as possible to attract customers.

Often a motorist will get off the freeway, trying to determine which direction to go. The tall signs provide a visual cue, he said.

Anderson said he personally doesn't think signs of any size are all that attractive, but they are important for a business because they help direct motorists unfamiliar with a city.

"We're all looking for those signs," he said.

Huber said the Planning Commission on Monday appeared receptive to creating a 500-foot zone around freeway off-ramps where the signs could be allowed. In addition, existing signs that fall outside those zones would be allowed to remain.

Another option that was debated would allow tall signs along a 500- to 1,000-foot distance measured from the center line of the freeway.

Huber said the city will study the issue further before anything is adopted.

"Ultimately, it's up to the City Council," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email

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