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Signs of the time

If you missed them before, maybe you won’t now, Mike Hale Chevrolet is about to have a new sign to rival Crandall Ford’s, both of which exceed Summit County’s 27 foot limit that is part of the current, controversial sign ordinance.

As it stands now, the county’s ordinance allows certain temporary signs to be displayed, such as real-estate and garage sale signs, but has tight restrictions on political, commercial and other signs, a constitutional violation of free speech according to Chris Robinson, Chairman of the County Council. Mike Hale and The Friends of the Summit County Library have also appealed the restrictions, saying they impose an unfair discrepancy in how businesses are allowed to advertise.

According to the council, the two appeals further illustrate how badly the sign code needs to be amended. "We are actively working on revising the sign code and bringing it up to standards that are acceptable to the county and government and relaxing certain standards," said Sean Lewis, a county planner. He added that the Basin Planning Commission walks a fine line between sign equality and sign pollution. "Synderville Basin and Park City have a reputation of natural beauty we don’t want to upset that with signs dotting the landscape and detracting," said Lewis.

On Wednesday, the County Council hesitantly granted special exception to Mike Hale Chevrolet to redo their sign, saying they didn’t see an actual increase in square footage of the sign. Mike Hale’s current sign is on a giant log, but what constitutes as a sign is not the entire surface area. "It is a narrow interpretation to say the footage of a sign is just where the letters are," said Robinson.

If measured in its entirety, Hale’s current sign is estimated at 72 square feet, making the newly approved 42-square-foot sign a decrease in area. The car dealership’s representatives say they suffered from less visibility than Crandall Ford, which received approval to expand their sign about a week ago, and that people often couldn’t locate them at all due to their less-than-obvious front sign. The dealership also faced increasing pressure from GM to display their trademark Chevrolet logo.

The sign is akin to Crandall’s plastic oval sign of similar dimensions displaying the Ford logo. Robert Crandall, General Manager at Crandall Ford said they have seen a noticeable difference in foot traffic and visibility since changing their sign to a more noticeable and recognizable design. Both dealerships are located on Rasmussen Road with only a few meters separating them.

The county planner’s recommendation was to reject the proposed sign since it did not adhere to the development code. "It was strictly about the size," said Lewis. "First it was Crandall Ford, now Mike Hale Chevrolet, special exceptions aren’t supposed to be precedent setting, but it’s hard to say where this will lead."

Car dealerships aren’t the only ones protesting the restrictive sign code. The Summit County Friends of the Library also appeared before the county council to ask for special exception to post sale signs for their bi-yearly book sale. The council was once again recommended by the planning board to reject the request and the council was warned to "beware of granting exceptions we couldn’t live with in other natures." Instead, the council found that the signs served a public purpose and formally allowed them to be displayed and placed in public right-aways up to four times a year for the duration of the events.


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