March 1, 2012 in Washington Voices

Liquor signage at businesses no longer would be limited

By The Spokesman-Review
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The Spokane Valley City Council heard from a few people Tuesday unhappy with a proposed rule change that would allow bars, restaurants and other businesses to have unlimited signs advertising alcohol.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board enacted a new rule limiting businesses to four alcohol-related signs totaling no more than a combined 1,600 square inches, but allows local jurisdictions to exempt their businesses from the rules.

Deputy City Attorney Kelly Konkright said the state is currently in the education phase and has not issued any citations for violations. “There does not appear to be any enforcement issues,” he said.

Linda Thompson of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council urged the council not to approve the proposed ordinance, which was up for a first reading this week. “Our state is going to be the most deregulated state for alcohol,” she said.

The current signs limits are adequate, she said.

“We feel this is enough signage,” she said. “We’re asking that you really help honor the youth of our city and keep the signs the way they are.”

Samantha Walters, a member of the West Valley High School Washington Drug Free Youth Chapter, does not want to see more liquor signs. “I work very hard to stay drug free,” she said. “When you see the community not supporting you, it’s hard.”

Councilman Chuck Hafner reminded the audience of his years in education and his role in helping start the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council. “I do not see the relevance of more signs,” he said.

“It’s just an issue of property rights, allowing people to use their property to make a living,” said councilman Dean Grafos.

The council voted nearly unanimously to advance the ordinance to a second and final reading, with Hafner casting the only no vote.

In other business, the council also voted to approve the first reading of an ordinance making changes to the city’s landscaping rules. Part of those rules address barbed wire fences in residential and commercial zones. The proposed changes would allow barbed wire fencing on residential lots if it is used to contain animals and allow the fencing on commercial property next to the public right of way, both of which are currently not allowed.

Both Grafos and councilman Arne Woodard said they believed they could fairly vote on the issue even though they have barbed wire fences on property they own.

“I think that even though it directly affects me I can be unbiased in my vote,” Grafos said.

There was also discussion on the second round of funding recommendations from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. The first round of recommendations generated controversy when Valleyfest was not allocated funding for the first time since the city incorporated.

In the second round, the committee again did not recommended funding the annual community festival.

Council members did not discuss Valleyfest, but spent most of their time talking about the Spokane Valley Arts Council’s request for $50,000 to build a statue for the city.

“Our initial thought was the statue would be an appropriate use of the money,” said Finance director Mark Calhoun. But the State Auditor’s Office said the money is only to be used to promote and increase tourism and the city would have to demonstrate how a statue would benefit tourism, Calhoun said.

“I think it would be an uphill battle,” he said.

The committee recommended giving most of the money available to the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, with small amounts also going to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum and the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. In the previous round of funding money was given to the Valley HUB, the Regional Sports Commission, the heritage museum and CenterPlace.

A vote on the allocation of lodging tax funding is scheduled for the March 27 council meeting.

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