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Signs along couplet violate state law

For five years, businesses along the Sprague-Appleway couplet have been clamoring for more prominent street signs alerting passers by to their presence on the other side of the block.

It turns out, though, that the blue signs the county erected along Appleway displaying up to six business logos apiece are illegal under state law.

“Most of the existing blue signs would need to be removed or significantly modified to comply with Washington law,” according to a staff report presented to the City Council at its meeting Tuesday.

The Council has decided to reconvene the Ad Hoc Sign Committee and instruct them to find a legal way for the city to advertise couplet businesses along Appleway.

“We need to make something bigger,” Councilman Mike DeVleming said at the meeting. The signs are directional in nature, rather than advertising, he said, and should be easier to see.

“That’s no more advertising than the Denny’s logo on I-90,” DeVleming said.

State law allows ads on blue signs along highways for very specific businesses that provide things like food, lodging and gas. But most of the placards on Appleway, which advertise everything from rain gutters to the DéjÀ Vu strip club, don’t fall into one of those approved categories.

One way to keep the advertising without running afoul of the law would be to remove it from “official signs” that direct traffic but keep some kind of ads along the road.

“I could not see any specific prohibition on allowing commercial advertising in the right of way,” Cary Driskell, deputy city attorney, said at the meeting.

Exactly how to do that within the law will be the task of the sign committee, which was formed last year to review the city’s sign regulations.

Spokane’s solution to a similar quandary along the Ruby-Division couplet was simply to do nothing.

After the city of Spokane decided not to renew contracts with the businesses for their presence on the signs, the businesses began maintaining them, according to the staff report.