News

City shuts down handheld signs from downtown streets

by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

Cruising the main drag in the City of Sequim, you may notice a change in the signs.

 

City staff continues to dialogue with businesses about their portable signs and staying in compliance.

 

Lisa Hopper, city code compliance officer, said for the most part businesses are complying with the portable signs code.

 

City councilors approved an updated signs code in the summer of 2011 and have updated it three times since then, including an allowance for strip malls to have a certain amount of signs dependent on the number of units.

 

Hopper said she continues to educate business owners about the signs and hasn’t removed any signs from lack of compliance lately.

 

“People are understanding,” she said. “It’s mainly a case-by-case basis.”

 

Businesses haven’t directed much feedback to Hopper and if they do, she refers them to the city council.
Chris Farmer, owner of the Sequim Domino’s Pizza, addressed the city council for the second time about signs on Dec. 10. He stopped his employees the same day from waving signs on the sidewalk in front of the pizza business and said his business dropped 75 percent in one day after a recent increase in sales.

“We’re trying to attract people on an impulse buy,” Farmer said. “The city has taken away the impulse purchase.”

 

He recommended amending the code to allow businesses with a business license and a physical address in the city limits to have handheld signs.

 

“It’s one small thing that would support my business,” Farmer said.

 

Any amendment to allow portable handheld signs would need to come from the city council.

 

City Manager Steve Burkett said the “council could amend the code to allow handheld signs, but that was one of the goals with the sign code, to reduce sign clutter.”

 

Currently, the only handheld signs allowed are in downtown Sequim and with a permit from the city.

 

Craig Ritchie, city attorney, said businesses in downtown would likely be denied a permit for handheld signage and that it customarily applies to protests and political rallies.

 

Mayor pro-tem Ted Miller addressed Farmer’s concerns, wondering if there is a middle ground with the city and business owners. He met with Farmer and said he’s not sure if there is a solution for Domino’s and other businesses seeking handheld signs.

 

“The key difference is that in downtown (signs) have to be oriented to pedestrians and west of Fifth Avenue they have to be oriented to cars,” Miller said.

 

“For a car, (handheld signs) are a safety issue. If you’re reading a sign and driving, it’s not safe.”

 

Ritchie, who agrees with Miller, said, “Handheld signs are the least pedestrian-friendly and the most likely to distract traffic, the most likely to drift to off-site locations and probably have the most negative impact on aesthetics.”

 

One solution Ritchie sees is business owners exploring options for constructing monument signs — free-standing structures promoting multiple businesses.

 

He said building the structure would be between the property owner and the business, but amendments are always a possibility to the city’s code to allow these new types of signs.

 

“The city council clearly recognizes signs are necessary. If there aren’t any, it hurts people looking for where to go and get stuff,” Ritchie said.

 

Farmer said a monument sign is nice but doesn’t give his business the impulse buyer.

 

“I’ve never gotten complaints about our signs,” he said.

 

Farmer said plans to keep speaking at city council meetings until he feels a resolution is met.

 

He said in the one-and-a-half weeks since he stopped using a portable handheld sign, his carryout business has gone down 15 percent.

 

For more information about the city’s sign code, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 683-4139.
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