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New city sign code approved

Council’s compromise version of ordinance passes on 6-1 vote

Spokane leaders this week finalized sweeping new rules governing signs.

The city’s sign code, approved 6-1 by the Spokane City Council on Monday, creates rules in places where none exist, like along North Division and Third Avenue, as well as guidelines for electric message boards and a host of other sign stipulations.

“Nobody’s happy with it entirely, but that’s just the way legislation goes,” City Council President Joe Shogan said.

Some complained the code was watered down from the version approved by the City Plan Commission.

In the most dramatic shift, the council amended the original draft that restricted digital signs from changing more than once a day to let them change every two seconds. A digital sign can be half as large as a normal sign, up to 48 square feet. The rules also allow signs in industrial and the most intensive commercial areas to display video.

Councilman Richard Rush, who cast the lone vote against the ordinance, said the city needs stricter regulations to lead to a better-looking city that would attract business.

“We’ll have a lot of signage along I-90 obscuring the skyline of the city,” Rush said, pointing to height rules along the freeway.

Signs along Third Avenue bordering Interstate 90 aren’t currently restricted in height. The first proposal called for limiting them to 25 feet. The final version increased that to 60 feet.

When the council first considered the ordinance in February, opposition from the business community was intense. Two months later, the council substituted a new version based on public testimony.

John Johnston, sales manager of Sign Corp., a Spokane Valley sign company, said the final version provides a good balance that won’t hurt business.

“Everything worked out well,” he said.

Suzanne Markham, president of Citizens for a Scenic Spokane, criticized the final rules relating to height and electric message boards. She said the council was “not using much vision.”

Other changes in the 48-page code include rules restricting the use of inflatable signs to two months a year and grand opening signs to 30 days.

It also restricts the number of garage sale signs that can be posted outside a yard to 10.

Mayor Mary Verner said Monday evening before the council vote that she did not expect to veto the measure and noted that the rules are stricter than those on the books. She said she would have preferred a longer duration between image changes on electric signs and lower sign heights along the freeway.

“I’m not enthusiastic about it, but I respect the fact that it’s the result of many months of public process,” Verner said.