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Sign, sign, township to get new signs

by CJ Carnacchio

April 17, 2013

Oxford Township officials last week approved a concept for new gateway signs to welcome visitors and help give the community some identity.

"This has been a hot topic with the EDSC (Economic Development Subcommittee) and we feel this is a great need (for) the community," said Todd Bell, who chairs the planning commission and serves on the EDSC.

Officials voted 4-3 to authorize up to $5,000 in spending for township engineer Jim Sharpe to do the necessary design work for two new gateway signs based on the concept shown above along the side of M-24, not in the median, near the municipality's northern and southern borders. The township previously budgeted $20,000 for new signs.

The approved concept is a sign that's 18 feet long and 3 feet, 6 inches tall. It would be made of styrofoam, some of which would be painted to give it a rock-face finish. The paint-job would last for 15 years, Bell said.

There are two reasons for making the signs out of styrofoam. One, it's a required safety feature to protect motorists should any vehicles ever crash into them.

Two, there's nothing to entice potential thieves. "We didn't want any materials on this sign that could be stolen (or) sold for scrap," Bell said.

Designed through Main Street Oakland County free of charge, the sign consists of three main elements 1) a step-like feature to resemble the historic stone railroad bridge, built in 1891, that runs over Indian Lake Rd.; 2) a monolith, made to look like stone, to symbolize the township's long history of gravel mining operations; and 3) a beam connecting these two elements that symbolizes the township's "strength."

The beam would feature the words, "Welcome to the Charter Township of Oxford," while the monolith would read "Est. 1837," the year the municipality was founded.

Bell noted the letters would be backlit using solar-powered LED lights.

The proposal originally called for the sign at the south end of the township to be located within the median that divides M-24's north and southbound lanes. It was believed placing it there would make the sign more visible and allow for the possibility of sharing the cost with Orion Township if that municipality wished to have its name on it, too.

However, officials decided they want the signs to remain along the side of M-24.

Township Supervisor Bill Dunn asked if a mask, representing the Lone Ranger, could be incorporated into the design.

"Everybody knows when they come to Oxford and they see a mask, it (means) the Lone Ranger," he said.

Oxford's historical connection to the Lone Ranger is well established.

Brace Beemer, who was the voice of the masked lawman on the radio from 1941-54, lived right on W. Drahner Rd. until his death in 1965.

"We can certainly take that into consideration," Bell said.

Clerk Curtis Wright asked if the sign was also going to contain the Downtown Development Authority's brand logo.

"We looked at that," said Bell, who explained that experts determined it "doesn't read right" to drivers who are traveling at 55 miles per hour along M-24.

"I would prefer to not see anybody's logo on there," added Trustee Sue Bellairs. "I've seen some really tacky (signs) over the years. I would prefer to see nothing but Oxford Township on there."

Not everybody was crazy about the proposed sign's look.

"I'm probably the only one, but I really don't like it," Bellairs said. "It doesn't really hit me."

Bellairs noted she would have preferred to have some options presented to the board.

"I like choices," she said.

"I guess I'm the only one here that thinks I'm happy with the signs we've got," said Trustee Melvin (Buck) Cryderman.

Cryderman was referring to the two wooden gateway signs with blue-and-gold lettering located along M-24 at the north and south ends. Those signs were constructed in 2011-12 by Eagle Scout Kenny Wellens, of Oxford Boy Scout Troop 366.

But Trustee Jack Curtis, who chairs the EDSC and serves on the planning commission, pointed out the plan was to eventually move those signs and use them as gateways on the township's eastern and western borders, which are currently unmarked.

The idea was to make the signage on M-24 more modern-looking and mimic what other "progressive communities," like Bloomfield Township, are using as their "gateway entrance," Curtis explained.

Curtis noted how the previous township board challenged the EDSC and planning commission to come up with a concept for a sign without spending any of the $20,000 budgeted for new signage.

"We took the challenge and got it to this point," he said. "To date, we haven't spent any of that money to get it this far."

Bellairs gave credit where credit was due.

"Even though I didn't like the sign, I think you did a fantastic job going with the board direction and bringing this forward with a lot of information," she told Bell.