Petition started against county sign code
June 15, 2010
A business at Kimball Junction is unhappy with the Snyderville Basin sign code. That’s not new. What is: he’s circulating a petition seeking 1,000 signatures protesting its infringement on free speech.
Commercial speech doesn’t have the same protections as other forms, and that’s understandable, said Gregg Davison, a partner at Molly Blooms Irish Pub a few doors down from the Basin’s U.S. Post Office. But the county’s code is overly restrictive and unfair in its exemptions, he says.
The petition, which can be found at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/m/sign/851224644 , explains Davison believes the grandfather clauses allowing bigger signage on older businesses handicaps new ones.
"I am frequently told by new patrons that they had difficulty finding my business because they can’t see the sign (which is the maximum size currently allowed) even though we are located in a high-traffic commercial complex," it reads.
1. 33 to 50 percent larger wall and monument signs.
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2. Equal treatment of temporary signs and banners for everyone including sandwich boards and yard sale signs (Davison said real estate and candidate signs are given more allowances).
3. Permission to display temporary signs.
4. Quick time limits for permitting decisions (Davison said the petition was prompted by the slow deliberation process exercised by county officials).
The petition calls the sign code "a content-based, prior restraint on the freedom of speech of thousands of residents, businesses and visitors "
Davison said Monday the petition was posted June 9 and had 14 signatures the first day. He said he doesn’t check the count often and isn’t sure what the total is now because he tries not to invest too much time into it since running his business comes first, he said.
He’s hoping for 1,000 electronic signatures by the end of the summer. If that happens, he’ll present it to the Summit County planning commission and request speedy reform of the code. That’s it.
"And then I’ll move on. It’s not something to dwell on. The commissioners have a lot on their plate. But this is important and needs to be addressed," he said.
Don Sargent, community development director for the county, oversees enforcement of the sign code. He said the best way to protest aspects of the code, request changes, or appeal for exemptions is to go before the planning commission during a regular meeting.
It’s a topic that’s continually debated and re-examined, he said.
Davison said he’s never gone before the commission because his understanding of the rules are that his entire block would have to agree on a change. With numerous business owners it’s been impossible to get unanimous agreement on anything.
That’s part of what is protested in the petition. Requiring an entire development to get on board with a change is too cumbersome, he said.
One aspect of the code that makes Davison angry and he finds an easy place to point out unfairness is the special exemptions for real estate signage.
Even though it is also commercial speech, real estate agents, developers and sellers have more leniencies in what they’re allowed. Giving all businesses the same allowances would be a positive step, Davison said.
Sargent said he doesn’t know why real estate signage is treated differently, but it is in most communities. The norm in many areas with sign codes is complete exemption for real estate. Summit County is one of the most restrictive places in its code for real estate promotion, he explained.
Additionally, enforcement of the code in regard to real estate signs is difficult and harsher restrictions might be impossible to enforce, Sargent added.
Mark Seltenrich, president of the Park City Board of Realtors, thinks the distinction is necessary because real estate signage is inherently temporary.
And even though the rules are different for his industry, they are still rules that must be followed.
Seltenrich said the board supports the county’s regulation of all types of signage because it improves the community’s aesthetics.
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