To Neon Or Not? Commissioners continue to debate sign regulations

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Confusion over proposed neon sign regulations caused commissioners to delay the vote to implement them.

At their July 11 meeting, commissioners discussed the neon sign regulations. Currently, neon signs are prohibited by the city’s code but officials and business owners agree they should be allowed. It’s an issue the commission has been discussing since at least June of 2016. Commissioners postponed a vote in December. Mayor Gary Resnick even joked about how long it’s taken the city.

Despite the current ban, business owners already use neon signs as advertising but city officials have not enforced the regulations. In the past, commissioners have cited wanting to be business-friendly as a reason for not strictly enforcing city regulations. Business owner Nick Berry told commissioners last year that neon signs were necessary to having a successful business.

At the July 11 meeting, Vice Mayor Justin Flippen said he wants changes to the sign code to be “least burdensome on business but still restrictive.”

Under the proposed regulations, owners would be limited to 1 illuminated sign every 10 feet of “frontage.” Each sign would be limited to a maximum size of 4 square feet, with a maximum of 4 signs per businesses.

The confusion came over whether frontage included windows.

“It’s not clear enough. I’m not sure if it should be contiguous or not. My understanding was [the ordinance meant] linear feet of window,” said Commissioner Julie Carson. “It should just be frontage,” said Commissioner Scott Newton. “It sounds to me like there is some lack of clarity,” said City Attorney Kerry Ezrol.

After discussing, commissioners decided to give city staff members more time to tweak the language. “The one thing we got out of this back and forth is we don’t understand what each other mean,” Resnick said.

City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson said city staff would provide commissioners with pictures of various storefronts to help them decide how to regulate neon signs. “The businesses in our city, there is such a wide differentiation [of storefront designs],” she said.

Commissioners will vote on the neon sign regulations but they will also vote separately on an overhaul of other sections of the sign code in October. Ezrol said the sign code was being looked at for consistency. “We don’t need to repeal everything.”

Flippen said he would rather vote on changes to the entire sign code all at once. “I don’t like piecemealing sections of the code.”

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