Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Ketchum works on sign ordinance

Express Staff Writer

Is a flashing neon hula dancer considered art?

If so, would it be exempt from Ketchum's sign ordinance?

Whose idea of art is a flashing neon hula dancer, anyway?

Ketchum's sign ordinance, in existence in some form since 1974, is being amended, and the Planning & Zoning Commission Monday, Feb. 27, discussed with city staff an array of potential scenarios they'd like to see, as well as many they would not.

"What we're proposing here is more generous and flexible than what we have now," said City Planner Beth Callister. "What I'd like to see us doing is facilitating businesses installing a sign that's going to work best for them. We need to be actively engaging with businesses, working with them to say, 'Yes, you could do that, but you could do this to reduce hazards.'"

Commissioners debated numerous regulatory issues, including questions like: If information is part of the image, is it a display or a sign? Which banner signs are considered temporary?

While some of the discussion focused on grandfathering in existing and historical signs, commissioners also considered the influence of technology and trends in signs.

"If we want to clean up Main Street, we need to look to the future," said Commissioner Deborah "Burnsie" Burns. "If we don't set the criteria now about TVs in windows ... it's just going to be awful, like downtown Toronto or San Francisco."

City staff and commissioners also touched upon placards plopped in the back of pick-up trucks.

"If they're driving through town or parked for a day, we shouldn't regulate it," said Commissioner Jack Rutherford. "If they're parked for two weeks, we should at least ... take a position on it and say we don't want it."

Consideration was given to the difference between signs in windows and display windows, the latter of which city staff is not inclined to regulate.

"What if it's an 8-foot martini glass? Would that make a difference?" asked Commission Chairman Harold Johnson.

"Only if it's full," said Ketchum Planning Director Harold Moniz.

Callister said she would conduct further research into public works of art and other questions asked by commissioners before bringing the issue back before the board on March 27.

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