It’s now up to the Tulsa City Council to approve a special zoning code overlay for Route 66.
If approved, the zoning code amendment would allow new signs that are at least 25 percent neon to be up to 50 percent larger than currently allowed by sign regulations. The relaxed regulations won’t apply to dynamic displays, typically LED or video boards capable of showing constant animation.
"So, if someone wants to outline a dynamic display in neon and then blow it up to the size of a Jumbotron, that’s not going to be applicable," said INCOG Land Development Planner Nathan Foster.
The overlay also allows for signs that project into the public right-of-way, though business owners won’t have free reign in that regard.
"There will be reviews in place to ensure that signs that are proposed to project into the right of way, over the sidewalk, things like that, aren’t going to interfere with any of our public utilities or the traffic lanes or where pedestrians are," Foster said.
The Route 66 overlay spans the city from 193rd East Avenue to Southwest Boulevard. It includes 11th Street, Admiral Boulevard and extensions at major intersections along Route 66, but it does not apply downtown.
"If you come into Tulsa trying to experience Route 66 and then you get downtown and suddenly it looks vastly different than what you saw on the east side or what you saw on the west side of downtown — there’s so many things to see and do in downtown, so why wouldn’t we want to be consistent all the way through the route?" said City Councilor Phil Lakin.
Currently, the zoning code does not allow overlays downtown. Planners may begin crafting another zoning code amendment so the relaxed sign regulations may be used downtown.
The Tulsa Route 66 Commission plans to create a $25,000 neon sign grant fund to help bring neon back to the Mother Road.