When the Town Council takes up a final version of the new sign regulations at its May 18 session it will likely include a provision that prohibits temporary signs in the public right-of-way.
During a discussion by the council on March 20, Vice Mayor David Spelich and Councilman Gerry Friedel were firm in their opposition to restricting the temporary signs for businesses. The remainder of the council supported the ban in the right-of-way. The council was unanimous in wanting to keep the signs off sidewalks.
There were no formal votes, just a consensus arrived at during discussion. The finished proposal will be back for a public hearing and final consideration by the council at its regular session on Tuesday, May 18.
Development Services Director John Wesley asked the council to discuss its position on the right-of-way issue, as well as several other items where he was seeking clarification including the hours of display for temporary signs, the display of flags and items related to electronic message signs.
Wesley presented the council with an overview of sign regulations for six other Valley communities. All but two of those prohibit the placement of signs in the right-of-way. Wesley did acknowledge that in some of those instances, enforcement is not a priority.
Mayor Ginny Dickey said the inability to enforce the regulations is not a valid reason to simply allow the signs. She expressed an interest in how the City of Tempe manages its ordinance, because it seems to have few issues with regulation.
Councilman Alan Magazine asked Town Manager Grady Miller to present a proposal for enforcement of the new regulation when it comes back.
Miller said he would likely consider a contract for enforcement. He said it is the simplest and probably cheapest way to go. Miller said a contractor would simply drive around with a pick-up truck and pick-up signs that are in violation.
Councilman Mike Scharnow agreed with Dickey regarding enforcement.
“It is difficult to enforce, it always has been,” Scharnow said.
He believes the situation is getting out of hand again, with signs for garage sales taped to sign posts and cardboard boxes all over town on the weekends.
Scharnow has taken the stance that the temporary signs are unnecessary for business and even yard sales.
“We recently had a yard sale and did not place a single sign,” Scharnow said. “We took an ad in The Times, Facebook and Craigslist, and it was busy.”
He has taken a similar position with temporary business signs, saying social media and modern technology are more than adequate to drive customers to a business.
This is where Spelich came down firmly on the side of business.
“I disagree (with Scharnow), I’ve had discussions with business owners who say the signs bring people in,” Spelich said. “We owe it to the businesses to allow them to put a sign out.”
“Every sale a business makes off these A-frames the town benefits from,” Friedel added. “These are sales that struggling businesses need.
“I agree that signs on the sidewalk pose safety issues.”
Dickey was firm in wanting to see how other communities are making their sign policies work.
“I don’t (care) what others say, we make our decisions for our community,” Spelich said. “I oppose regulating the signs for business.”
“We are not asking others to tell us how to do it,” Dickey said. “This is a complex issue and with courts involved, I think we can rely on others to see what works for them.”
The issues related to time of display will be proposed in the ordinance as dawn to dusk, unless on private property where they would be no limitation.
With flags (not banners), the most specific requirement is a size limit of 24 square feet in residential zoning districts. They can also be displayed from buildings rather than poles.
With regard to the use of electronic message boards, users will be permitted to leave the signs on with a static message after business hours. During normal operation they will be required to use a fade or dissolve transition between messages rather than an instant change.
The council will hold a public hearing prior to its consideration of the new draft ordinance.