Old Town captures holiday shoppers
Park City’s newly streamlined municipal sign ordinance will give businesses more latitude when it comes to luring customers to their goods and services.
At a Dec. 15 meeting, the Park City Council voted in favor of amendments to Title 12 of the Municipal Sign Code, a revision process that took planner Ray Milliner, staff, and Historic Main Street Business Alliance (HMBA) representatives nearly two years to complete. The new code permits an increased number of way-finding signs for realtors’ open houses, sandwich or "A-frame" signs, and puts a cap on neon signs.
Former HMBA president Mike Sweeney, who initiated the revision process in 2004, says of his recommendations, 70 percent were implemented into the ordinance.
"I think it was reasonable," he said of the council’s decision. "When you’re working with a democratic process, you don’t get everything. The Main Street Business Alliance is very appreciative of the amount of time and energy that the Planning Commissioners, City Council members, staff and Ray Milliner in particular spent on changing the code."
The most important change, he said, was the clarification of language, which he estimates eliminated nearly 14 pages of verbiage that, in turn, gives business owners the ability to better comply with regulations, and better communicate with staff.
In the past, businesses have had frequent run-ins with enforcement on the sign code, according to Sweeney.
"There are a lot of businesses that ran into sign code issues in everyday life on [Main] Street, and we were able to mitigate the ones that caused people the most problems [with the requirements] in the code," he said.
Sweeney’s interest in revising sign requirements began when he approached City Council about his Town Lift Caf , which was next to the Town Lift. He wanted to post a neon open sign on the second floor, but council and planning commissioners stuck to the code, which insisted that any second-floor signage be reviewed by the city.
Although the code’s changes give businesses more flexibility and creative lee-way, it still will not permit Sweeney to highlight his second-level caf now called Rum Bunnies — with electric letters.
The city seems to be unwilling to bend when it comes to neon signs: it chose to limit the number of signs in the revised code to one neon sign for every 25 feet of building fa ade width, and any additional signs require permission from the city, according to Milliner.
"Originally, provided the luminous tube signs were two square feet, business owners could have an unlimited number without a permit," Milliner explained. "The new code doesn’t eliminate them entirely, but it does regulate them a little more stringently."
City Staff does not define penalties to those who violate the code, says Milliner, but gives verbal warnings to business owners until violations get out of hand. Those who continue to break the rules do risk going to court for a class C misdemeanor, and at that point, it is up to the judge to decide the penalty.
Up until this fall, planners felt that among those who abused the right to signage were realtors’ way-finding signs for open houses, and recommended to staff that all way-finding signs be prohibited.
"Originally, [realtors] were allowed to have one, and then the planning commission recommended zero," Milliner explained. "From the planning commission’s standpoint, the concern was clutter There had been some people who had violated the code and gone crazy and put up seven, eight, nine signs and so it just didn’t look very good."
Two City Council meetings this November drew crowds of realtors concerned about their business and how to direct their potential clients to homes. Many of them claimed not to have known that there was a one-sign limit according to the code. In the end, council opted instead to allow open houses one sign on the property, and five off-site.
"Because of the unique nature of the real estate industry, selling homes is always changing, the location is always changing, and City Council felt that it was important to get people who are looking to buy a home to the right areas," Milliner said.
He added that the Park City Board of Realtors were more than willing to work with the staff to prevent future sign clutter and will meet with staff members on a regular basis.
Other amendments to the sign code included:
-Monument signs, or free-standing signs can be larger: up to 20 square feet.
-Color requirements have been simplified from technical language like "bright colors imbued with brown" to a more general prohibition of florescent and reflective surfaces.
-Sandwich or "A-Frame" signs are now permissible on plazas and in front of buildings, provided they do not block any pedestrian’s right-of-way.
-The code also encourages signs, particularly on Main Street, to have letters that are raised and routed into the sign face to give signs variety and depth, according to Milliner. Sweeney says that the experience of working with council members, commissioners and staff has shown him that current members and staff are more willing to think outside the box than they have been in the past. The code will help businesses communicate with customers.
"A sign is designed to communicate a message, in particular, the merchants are trying to encourage people to come into their stores and in the past, the signs actually blended into the building, to the point where it was difficult to read them," he said. "What we’ll be able to do now is have the ability to have the signs stand out a little. To me it’s critical to be able to say we’re open for business and if we can do it in a creative way, it will drive people to our business."
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Thanks to COVID-19 cutting into visitation numbers, Park City’s seasonal workforce is sufficient. In any other winter, “the hiring situation would be dire.”