Friday, November 2, 2007

Ketchum signs back into sign discussion

Should city work harder to enforce its sign ordinance?

Express Staff Writer

Sandwich board signs, used widely throughout downtown Ketchum, are not currently legal. Revisions proposed to the city?s sign ordinance would make them so. Photo by David N. Seelig

Ketchum planners are reopening an old discussion: How to tweak the city's sign ordinance to make it more business-friendly while simultaneously maintaining an uncluttered atmosphere throughout the downtown.

The Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau and the city hosted a pair of meetings in the last two weeks to solicit feedback from local business owners about the city's sign ordinance designs. About eight people attended the meeting on Thursday, Nov. 1, at Ketchum City Hall.

The overriding theme at the Thursday meeting was that regardless of what changes are implemented they may mean little if enforcement isn't taken seriously.

"We have a lot of non-conforming signs now," said Ketchum planner Mark Goodman. "Enforcement is a separate issue."

While enforcement is indeed a separate issue from the drafting of new regulations, Silver Creek Outfitters owner Terry Ring said the changes must be enforced.

"It needs to be uniform and fair," Ring said. "It's fair is all I'm asking."

Ring said the existing sign ordinance precluded him from including the word "Outfitters" on his store sign because it was too long. Seeing other businesses in town with as long or longer names posted does not constitute a level playing field.

Goodman said the way it works is when someone applies to the city, their signs are permitted according to the ordinance. In reality, some simply put their signs up, and those signs are never subjected to the city's guidelines.

Even so, the issue at hand was to resume an effort that began in 2005 but that slipped in priority when the city began its downtown master planning process.

"I think the purpose of the sign code is to come up with something that reduces clutter and still enables businesses to advertise," Goodman said.

Key changes under consideration include:

- The number of signs allowed per business, per street or alley, will be limited to three.

- Square-footage of signs per building street or alley frontage will depend on the size of the building.

· Master plan signs, signs that show all businesses in a large building, will be required for all multi-tenant buildings when signs are changed.

- Sandwich boards, triangular prop-up signs that are placed in streets, will be permitted in front of businesses that can maintain a 5-foot pedestrian "free and clear" zone. Sandwich boards, which are widely used throughout the city, are not allowed by the current ordinance.

- Creative signs that meet certain as-yet-undeclared minimum specifications will be permitted larger than otherwise allowed.

- Real estate signs will be treated the same as all other signs.

Goodman said that, while regulation is an issue separate from revising the code, the new ordinance "will be much easier to regulate."

"Actually," he said, "it allows for more for businesses."

Ketchum's sign ordinance was last revised in 1999.

"I'm not saying it's going to be perfect," Goodman said. "But I think we can do better than we have."

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