Just one year after relaxing the sign code in Spokane Valley, the City Council is looking at making further tweaks to address problems that have arisen for some businesses.
The 2012 update included some provisions that probably shouldn’t have been included, said Community Development Director John Hohman, including that any banners had to be hung on the building. That created problems for buildings that were set back from the street. The new rules being considered by the council would allow banners anywhere on the property.
The original intent was probably to make sure sight lines were not blocked for drivers, Hohman said. “If they hang it on their chain link fence, is that a problem?” Hohman said. “I don’t think so.”
A case in point is Washington Auto Collision at 16811 E. Sprague Ave. The business is so far from the street that it has a long driveway, which presents a challenge for drivers trying to find it. The business had a banner on their fence that runs along Sprague to point the way until it was told to remove it late last year, said business vice president Joan Tolerico.
“It’s really unfortunate,” she said. “It just says ‘body shop’ with an arrow.”
The business has painted an arrow on the driveway at Sprague Avenue, but it can be hard to spot.
“A guy told me just the other day that he drove up and down three times,” she said.
Tolerico said she has talked with Hohman and found him helpful. She plans to create a new pole sign on the side of the road to direct customers to her business.
“There is a pole out there,” she said. “It’s on my property and I’m going to use it.”
If the sign code changes pass, Tolerico said she will get out her banner again. “I would be very happy,” she said.
Under current rules, reader boards are considered portable and aren’t allowed unless they were permanently attached to the ground, Hohman said. That created a problem primarily for coffee shops. The new rules under consideration would allow them.
The council is also considering whether to allow an increase in the number of temporary signs. Currently businesses are allowed one temporary sign, which includes banners, flags without writing and pennants.
That number could be increased to two and reader boards and flags with writing would be added to the menu of sign options. Businesses are already allowed to have an A-frame sign plus a pole sign or a monument sign.
The city’s planning commission recommended approval of the new sign code, but the decision was not without debate. Commissioner Christina Carlsen presented her fellow commissioners with an analysis of how many signs could be added under the new rules and expressed concern about sign clutter.
“I agree that in theory one more sign per business doesn’t sound like much of a change, but when I drive down some of our main streets, I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of signs that are present,” Carlsen wrote.
If the businesses on the northeast corner of Sprague Avenue and Sullivan Road used their full allotment there would be more than 80 signs there, Carlsen wrote. There are 22 businesses on the corner between 212 N. Sullivan Road and 15910 E. Sprague Ave.
Hohman acknowledged that clutter could become an issue.
“I think it is a concern,” he said. “I brought it up as something the council should consider. Our job is to bring them the information and it’s their job to wade through it.”
Overall Hohman said he thinks the changes will be helpful to businesses.
“I kind of like the flexibility,” he said. “I think we’re still in the mode of trying to control (signs) and not have a complete free-for-all.”