Friday, September 3, 2010

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Ketchum’s overlooked sign ordinance to now be enforced


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

Signs are prevalent on Ketchum’s Main Street, a number of which are illegal under city ordinance. A prime example is the sandwich board often placed on sidewalks or other public right-of-ways, which is prohibited. Photo by David N. Seelig

Ketchum hasn't done much enforcing of its sign ordinance over the past year and a half, but that will soon change. The city is making it a priority, starting at the end of September.

And those affected—mostly businesses with offsite signs such as the common sandwich board—won't be immediately fined for their prohibited signs, according to City Planning Manager Stefanie Leif. She said many people merely aren't aware of the rules and need to be educated. Letters will be sent notifying non-compliers of what they're doing wrong. She said the city would first be focusing on educating those with the highly visible problems of signs placed off site, usually on sidewalks or other public rights-of-way, which isn't allowed.

"Those have popped up a lot as of late," Leif said.

Leif said that if signs aren't removed according to the city's rules after people are informed, the city would then resort to fines, which could be up to $300 for every day a sign stays up.

The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed the initiative at its Tuesday meeting, claiming the action is needed for the city's appearance.

"There's an aesthetic we're trying to maintain," Commissioner Sam Williams said.

Leif called the action the "Ketchum beautification plan," something the P&Z reiterated. And some signs, such as sandwich boards strewn across the community core's sidewalks, are against the rules for a reason. It's unsightly.

"Let them [the public] know there is going to be a significant re-examination of sign enforcement," said Commissioner Steve Cook, later admitting, "It's going to be a rocky road."

While education and enforcement are being stepped up, the city is also rewriting its sign ordinance to make its intentions clearer and the ordinance more comprehensible.

A replacement ordinance was written by the P&Z in 2006 and revised in 2007, but was never adopted by the City Council. Commissioner Rich Fabiano said at an April 26 meeting that this draft code is "too lengthy" at 26 pages, and needs to be 10-12 pages.

"We need to keep this fairly simple," Fabiano said. "If it's simple, it's easier to enforce."

A new draft ordinance is scheduled to be brought before the P&Z at its Sept. 27 meeting. If it's not ready by then, it will be revealed Oct. 12.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com




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