City sign ordinance remains a hot topic

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Chris Hugo, the City of Sequim’s planning director, said he sees some irony in a recent complaint filed by Bryan Carter, the owner of Kiwi’s Fish and Chips.


In recent months a number of businesses have criticized the city’s sign ordinances, with most of those beyond the borders of the downtown corridor. They say they want the same sign-age rights as those extended to downtown businesses.


Some want to place sandwich boards on the side of Washington Street to draw in traffic.


Carter has a similar complaint: He wants equal enforcement of the rules.


Carter says because the big, expensive sign on the face of his business is placed parallel to Washington, it’s ineffective at bringing in those driving by.


So last week he hung his sandwich board from a projecting rafter over the sidewalk. He then put it on long legs. Either way, it worked like a charm, he said, until the city told him to take it down.


Carter said a short sidewalk sandwich board is ineffective at stopping traffic because it’s hidden behind parked cars.


“How the hell do the people get here?” he asked.


He noted there are hanging signs further down the block and hanging racks of clothes blocking the sidewalk.


“It’s one rule for some, another for others,” he said.


Carter said he didn’t receive any complaints from his neighbors — in fact they were happy.


On the other hand

Hugo said the rules apply equally to everyone downtown.


“We do have a standard provision for freedom of movement down a sidewalk, but on the other hand, (the code) is designed for bringing in pedestrians.”


Regarding the sidewalk sales racks and tables, he asked, “Where is there a city that doesn’t allow sidewalk sales? They help the vitality of downtown.”


The sandwich boards, up to six square feet, are allowed in the right-of-way “so people walking by can find out what’s on special.”


He said there were two issues with Kiwi’s sign. One, Carter already has used the maximum allowed square footage for signs with the large sign that faces onto Washington Street.


If Carter were to add a projecting sign, he’d have to reduce the big sign by an equal number of square feet.


Two, the sign hung too low. All overhead signs must have more than seven feet of clearance, he said. It’s a safety issue.


Hugo said Carter hung it there “to bring in cars.”


Carter agrees. He wrote to Jack Dodge, senior planner for the City of Sequim, saying, “If we can’t attract passing motorists to stop and get out of their cars, there is no need to have shops here at all.”


Carter said the rules don’t quite make sense. Regarding the safety issue, he said he simply placed a chair under the sign to ensure no one bumped their noggin.


“They want you to have a business and succeed, but then they do everything else against you.”

Hugo says the new complaint “is just ironic.”


“Maybe they can all swap locations for a while.”


In the meantime, Hugo isn’t budging. He said he talked to other civic leaders about Kiwi’s hanging and elevated sign and they said, “I hope the code doesn’t allow that.”


Reach Mark Couhig at

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