Friday, December 9, 2011

A new time for signs

Ketchum enacts new sign ordinance


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Sandwich signs such as this one for Despo’s restaurant were the subject of debate during the course of discussions on Ketchum’s sign ordinance. The City Council this week enacted a new ordinance to replace the former one. Sandwich board signs still will be allowed, but with restrictions. Photo by David N. Seelig

Following multiple meetings and revisions over the course of more than a year, the city of Ketchum has a new sign ordinance.

The City Council on Monday voted to approve the new code, which seeks to simplify the former code, close loopholes and create clarity for business owners and the public.

"It's a lot simpler, it's a lot shorter," Associate Planner Rebecca Bundy said of the new ordinance.

One significant change covers projecting signs, which the city now will allow to project over the right of way as long as they meet certain standards.

"We're definitely making that process easier," Bundy said in an interview. "That's a big change from the former code."

The council also updated language pertaining to freestanding signs, which include sandwich boards and banners.

"We're trying to respond to business owners' need to advertise themselves," Bundy said. "Businesses were clamoring for sandwich signs."

Sandwich board signs have to allow for 5 feet of free pedestrian passage and will have to be close to the entrance of the business. The signs will require a permit, but that will come with a reduced fee and an expedited process, Bundy said.

Sandwich board signs can present problems when they are placed on public sidewalks if they block access for wheelchairs, strollers and pedestrians.

"We cannot not have ADA accessibility in the city," Bundy said. "It's against federal law."

Signs in compliance before the ordinance was passed will not have to adhere to the new regulations.

"There are changes in the code but we're not going to make everybody comply to the new code as long as they (the signs) are legal right now," Bundy said.

The real estate section of the code was further refined this summer to address concerns from that business interest group.

The City Council opted to allow three wayfinding signs per open house, posted the day of the open house only. The signs must be within a quarter mile of the site.

During discussions about the code, representatives from the Sun Valley Board of Realtors agreed to police themselves to minimize their signs' impact.

Bundy said their efforts have been successful.

"It's a marked improvement over a few months ago," she said.

Real estate auction signs will be subject to the city's temporary sign and banner section of the code, which, among other things, limits how long they can be up.

Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia chastised the city over the regulations, calling the rules "onerous" and saying the city was overstepping its authority.

"We don't need no stinkin' sign ordinance," he said.

The city will issue a warning for the first offense. A citation will be issued for the second offense with a possible fine of up to $300 for every day a sign stays up.

"Anything in the zoning code is subject to that," Bundy said. "It's the same enforcement language."

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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