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May 16, 2013
City weighs sign regs

For the past year, Tooele City has been working on updating its sign ordinance to create a standard for businesses.

Currently, the city’s sign ordinance doesn’t include a set standard for businesses to follow, and many business owners are unaware of what the ordinance states.

Tooele City Mayor Patrick Dunlavy hopes that getting input from local business owners will help the city amend its sign ordinance to benefit businesses, aesthetics and continuity when it comes to signs.

“My concern was that we wanted to have a standard and continuity to the signs throughout the city,” said Dunlavy. “I didn’t want to end up with signs every two feet so that people couldn’t read them and the city would be turned into something that isn’t what the community wants.”

A survey, sent out by the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce to its more than 400 chamber members, asks business owners to submit their thoughts about the city’s current sign ordinance and what changes they think should be made.

Dunlavy said he asked the chamber to help the city get business input because most Tooele City businesses are members of the chamber.

“They have a system to communicate with all of the local businesses quickly, so we asked for their help,” he said. “The chamber decided to put together the survey they sent out. The intent of that is to get input from businesses that will be affected by this ordinance.”

Jared Hamner, executive director for the chamber, said the survey deadline is this Friday. So far, out of the more than 400 surveys sent out, he has received 75 back.

Dunlavy said before the sign ordinance was amended, he wanted to get input from the business community because most signs are typically used by businesses to promote sales or events.

“A lot of the current sign ordinance won’t change as it exists, but there are so many different signs and uses of the signs that as you go up and down Main Street, it’s a hodgepodge of flags, A-frame signs, billboards and the like,” said Dunlavy.

The mayor said once the city receives the results of the survey, it will take the comments into consideration as the ordinance is prepared for presentation to the city council.

“We’ll take that information into consideration, but we also have to do what’s required by law because many standards are set by statute,” said Dunlavy. “Next, what we believe will happen, is that we’ll come up with an amended sign ordinance that sets a standard policy for everyone. The signs will have continuity. By doing that, not only will we accomplish what signs are for, which is to promote businesses, but we will also keep the aesthetics of the community at a level that I think we all want.”

Jim Bolser, director for Tooele City public works and community development, said a lot of what’s going into amending the sign ordinance is reestablishing current policies.

“The hard thing about writing sign code, besides it being deeply wrapped in the First Amendment, is that there is a delicate balance between allowing the business community to advertise themselves in a field of vastly changing technologies and sign types,” said Bolser. “This chapter of the code is fluid because it’s constantly changing. You can’t amend a chapter every other month whenever technology and features change, so you have to develop policies along the way. When you get the opportunity to implement new things in the formal code, you have to do it, making the ordinances even more official, so to speak.”

Tooele City Planner Rachelle Custer said a part of the city’s sign ordinance was amended at the end of last year. Previously, the city didn’t allow A-frame signs in the downtown area. The ordinance was amended to allow them.

Downtown businesses from 100 South to Utah Avenue and from 50 West to 50 East are allowed to have A-frame signs outside their storefronts. The signs must be uniform, and must be 24 inches in width and 36 inches in height.

“That one we put through already in order to allow downtown businesses an avenue to advertise in the public right of way because they do not have setbacks from their property lines,” Custer said. “We wanted to give them a means to advertise.”

Dunlavy said currently there are several signs around town that aren’t legal. By revamping the sign ordinance, there will be a set standard created that will make it easier for the city to enforce it and treat every business equally. Custer said an example of an illegal sign is any sign placed in a park strip that was not placed there by a government agency.

“A lot of new people in business don’t understand you can’t do whatever you want,” said Dunlavy. “We want to bring the ordinance up to date that addresses all sign issues from the diverse requests we get. That way people will have an easier understanding of what they can and can’t do. Then we’ll go out and do some code enforcement and make people aware. It’s not a punitive thing, it’s an awareness thing.”

Dunlavy said city staff hopes to finalize the ordinance by mid-June and present it to the city council.

“As soon as we get the survey results, that will help us expedite the process,” he said.

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