The city’s sign code and whether to add on-street parking to the one-way portion of Sprague Avenue were part of the discussion during Tuesday’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting.
The council relaxed the sign code in April, and the city mailed brochures to thousands of businesses explaining the new rules, said Community Development Director John Hohman. Before that the city hadn’t been actively enforcing its fairly strict sign code, he said.
The efforts to enforce the new, more relaxed sign code were not welcomed.
“When these changes came through, a lot of business owners didn’t see it as a relaxation,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a very controversial process.”
Hohman said that the city visited some businesses multiple times, warning them that their signs weren’t allowed and giving them time to comply. “Hopefully they took that as us asking nicely,” he said.
The city has received complaints in recent weeks about the sign code, and Hohman said the city could make a few changes to make it easier for businesses. There have been issues with portable signs, mostly reader boards, and the location and number of temporary banners. That includes flags, which are not allowed to have text on them.
The code dictates that banners be attached to the building. “It’s that requirement that seems to be the most difficult for business owners,” Hohman said. “I think we need to look at that issue.”
The city could also allow reader boards for some types of businesses and give more flexibility for the location of temporary signs, he said.
Councilman Dean Grafos said some business owners probably don’t realize what the old rules were and said he had no problem allowing text on flags. “What’s the difference between a flag with script and one without?” he said.
Councilman Arne Woodard said he has heard about the temporary signs issue from business owners. “Depending on the location, we can relax that a little bit,” he said.
“If we’re going to be a friendly city for business, then we need to be friendly with signage,” said Councilman Chuck Hafner.
Senior traffic engineer Inga Note made a presentation about on-street parking on the one-way section of Sprague Avenue. Note said she does not recommend it because of the high speed of traffic and the large number of driveways on the road. Because people pulling out of parking spaces need to have a clear view of oncoming traffic, there needs to be no parking within 175 feet of any driveway, she said.
She showed a picture of a section of Sprague with multiple driveways. “Maybe you could get a car or two in, but then you have another driveway,” she said.
Studies have also shown an increase in accidents on high speed roads with parking versus high speed roads without parking, she said. The accidents on the high speed streets with parking also tend to be more severe, she said.
Generally, on-street parking is for roads with low speeds, low traffic volume and narrower lanes, she said. “Because of the high speed on Sprague, this is really a concern for me,” Note said.
Streets with parking should also have buildings close to the road and street trees, she said. “This really does make a difference,” she said. “It narrows the road for the driver. That would be a big change in that area.”
The city does have the option of offering parking on side streets or making some sort of access/parking lane that is separated from the road with a divider or landscaping of some kind. The second option would likely force the removal of two traffic lanes, Note said.
Grafos said he likes the access lane idea and thinks that auto dealership owners might be willing to work with the city to offer a portion of their land for the concept so the city doesn’t have to remove so many lanes. “I think they would be interested in exploring that,” he said.
“I can’t imagine anyone trying to parallel park with cars going 35 miles per hour,” said Mayor Tom Towey. “Clearly it’s a safety problem. I like the idea of partnering with the auto dealers.”
But voters have said via the ballot box that they want Sprague to be a commuter corridor, Towey said. “They don’t want it slowed down,” he said. “They don’t want it narrowed.”
City staff will research the parking options further for later discussion by the council.