December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria relaxes design review standards

ELYRIA — Elyria Planning Commission voted Tuesday to relax some of the guidelines of the city’s design review process.

Mayor Holly Brinda admitted the changes may seem subtle, but they could mean a lot of money for contractors and developers and be the difference between someone choosing Elyria for a new business and going to a different city. The city has been eyeing possible changes for nearly two months in three areas — building materials, signage and lighting.

“I think that doing this in combination with expanding our economic development toolkit will strengthen Elyria’s ability in retaining and attracting business in the city,” she said. “The message I want to send is Elyria is business-friendly, we have taken steps to make the community more business-friendly, and we are open to talking to anyone who wants to bring a business to Elyria.”

The Planning Commission does not need the approval of City Council to make the changes, which are effective immediately.

The changes, however, will not affect the downtown district as it was decided early in the process that the guidelines in place for that historic part of the city were appropriate.

The changes to the design review guidelines include allowing for glass, decorative concrete block or an alternative material approved by the chief building official to be used as the main building material, changing the background of signs from opaque to dark, allowing cloud signs in certain instances and allowing for deviations in light fixtures in industrial areas.

“These changes may not mean much on the surface, but something like allowing decorative brick is a huge cost savings to a building,” Brinda said. “In larger building projects, it can decrease the cost in construction by more than 50 percent.”

Dan Reaser, owner of American Hood Systems, has long championed relaxed guidelines. He has previously said a number of projects never came to fruition in Elyria because of the strict policies.

Others in the building community share his sentiment.

Dean Schramm of Schramm Signs said at one time he stopped designing signs in Elyria because the limited guidelines didn’t allow for creativity.

Brinda said these newest changes are a sign the city is flexible and responsive to the concerns of contractors and builders. She said she would like to see design review updates every year.

“We didn’t want to get rid of design review guidelines, but we know that in order to be competitive and up-to-date on emerging building trends we had to be proactive,” she said. “Products are going to continue to evolve. For example, LED lighting did not exist when design review was created, but it is now, and is changing the way signs are designed.”

Full details of the design review changes can be found in the Mayor’s Office or Community Development Department. Contractors who need specific details should call (440) 326-1402.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.