Main Street merchant pushes property rights, city fears clutter
March 18, 2006
One Main Street merchant’s plea to relax regulations on temporary signs hit a wall during a Park City Council work session Thursday. Council members said they feared the streets would become cluttered, and backed the original version of the city’s sign code.
Seasons Day Spa owner Mike Sweeney, the former president of the Historic Main Street Association, approached city council with a request to amend the city’s code. He asked if the language for off-premise temporary portable signs could be changed to allow businesses to display temporary signs on their private property. The current code specifies such signs are permissible only on certain plazas.
Reading from a letter he wrote, Sweeney said all commercial businesses that sell products or services should be able to take advantage of temporary portable signs, subject to the no-public right of way requirement. Businesses should not be precluded from posting temporary portable signs, simply because they may clutter Main Street.
He noted that this winter, the city allowed Park City merchants a trial run with temporary portable signs, permitting them to post until April 15. The city received no complaints about the signs posted, he said, and there was no clutter in the streets.
Businesses, furthermore, found that being able to post a sign outside their building increased their business, Sweeney reported.
"One sign indicated dinosaurs could be found inside the Mall. Since the dinosaurs sign has been placed outside, the retail clerk indicated foot traffic increased over 100 percent," he said. "My sign has certain helped Seasons’ salon business, which is located in the interior of the Marriott Plaza."
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Sweeney told council members he was speaking as a merchant, and on behalf of all merchants in Park City, and not the HMBA. Too often, there are not enough people shopping, let alone walking on sidewalks, he argued.
"Crowded sidewalks mean there are people in town and some of them might visit my shop," he explained. "Notwithstanding the Park City Camber/Bureau, HMBA and city spending lots of money to attract crowds to Park City, there are months where tourists could be considered an endangered species."
Sweeney counted 194 licensed businesses on Main Street, and less than 69 store frontages that meet the city’s temporary portable sign criteria. As a business owner, he said he needs every possible advantage to turn a profit, "let alone break even." He asked the council to change the code to allow temporary portable signs to be placed within the boundaries of the private property of the business.
City planner Ray Milliner, who spoke with Sweeney during the work session, said that planners recommended the code remain unchanged.
Council members agreed with Milliner, citing concerns that any changes to the code might crowd streets and obstruct pedestrian traffic.
"We have a town that in my opinion has through the years created an ambiance that is attractive to visitors," councilman Roger Harlan said. "Our sign ordinance, amongst other things, is impacted by the little, creeping changes I’d have to be convinced we were moving in the right direction. I’d rather deal with issues presently than to open something else."
Councilman Jim Hier said that Sweeney’s revision would contradict the purpose of having a sign code.
"If we do what Mike’s proposing then we’re allowing the permanent placement of temporary signs, outside anywhere," he argued.
The city council directed staff to keep the code as is.