Friday, November 5, 2010

Ketchum to unveil new sign ordinance

Public invited to weigh in on first draft of regulations

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum’s rewritten sign ordinance is intended to clarify the rules for all signs in town and more greatly restricts sandwich-board signs like these. Photo by David N. Seelig

Ketchum has finished rewriting its rules for all signs in town and wants to hear the public's opinion.

To do so, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission is holding a public workshop on Monday, Nov. 8, at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall to review the first draft. The proposed rules are available at the city's website, Simply place the mouse over "City Departments," then "Community and Economic Development" and click on "Sign Code Amendments."

The issue of signs has become a hot topic as of late because of illegally placed signs continually popping up in town, especially businesses' sandwich-board signs on sidewalks. Ketchum Planning Manager Stefanie Leif said the current rules allow sandwich boards as long as they're directly in front of the correlating business and not blocking sidewalk travel. However, she and the P&Z have said that businesses have increasingly placed their signs down the street from their locations or in the middle of sidewalks. Leif said the city has learned that the problem often isn't people blatantly disregarding the rules but not understanding them.

The city sent letters to businesses in mid-October telling them that any sandwich boards still improperly placed after Nov. 15 will result in the owner being issued one warning. Second offense will earn a citation and possible fine of up to $300 for every day a sign stays up.

"Most people are surprised it's not as restrictive as they thought," Leif said.

She said business owners have been pleasantly surprised to hear sandwich boards aren't altogether prohibited on sidewalks. They just have to reposition them.

Leif said the main intention of the 27-page rewrite is to clarify the rules, which apply to any signs placed within public sight. However, sandwich boards would be more restricted if the draft code is approved. The proposed rules require sandwich-board signs to be on private property, meaning they couldn't be on the edge of the sidewalk against a business, as is currently allowed.

The draft doesn't increase the penalty for breaking sign rules despite previous public comment to the P&Z claiming the ordinance needs to have "more teeth," or it still wouldn't be followed.

The ordinance divides signs into two categories: permanent and temporary. Permanent signs are then further broken down into things such as window signs, awning signs and wall signs. Sandwich boards fall under temporary signs.

Trevon Milliard:

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