Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Guest View-Don Bristow: More Sign Pollution Coming To Oro Valley

Last week the Oro Valley Town Council approved changes to the illuminated sign and ballon sign code.  Businesses will be allowed one additional neon sign within a six foot area. Baloons will be allowed.  Resident Don Bristow spoke against these measures. Here are his remarks and video of is remarks.
Since Mayor Hiremath and Councilmembers Hornat, Snider, and Waters have been on Council, they have backed over thirty changes to Oro Valley’s sign code. Why and how has there been a need for this many sign code changes? A look at proposed code changes for balloons and illuminated window signs illustrate the flawed basis for changing codes.

Illuminated Signs
On May 20, 2015 council received an approved a request for more and for significantly larger illuminated window signs. Under the current long-standing sign code, a business is allowed one non-flashing small illuminated open/close sign.

The proposed zoning-code amendment will allow a six square-foot area for illuminated signs near a front door. The area can contain one of more signs, and can be anything that relates to the business. For example, a restaurant could have several signs each promoting a different brand of beer.

Based on a records request that I made, there is no documented demand from the business community for bigger or more illuminated area for a window sign. However, there are violation complaints which I have filed due to lack of code enforcement

It is my opinion that the  ongoing failure of businesses to comply with code is due to the lack of code enforcement. As staff continued to receive complaints from regarding the same type of sign code violation, it is clear that the lack of enforcement is deliberate. To stop the complaints that validate the non-enforcement, staff put forth a proposal to amend the sign code, thus eliminating violation and any future need for enforcement.

Balloon Use Code Not Enforced

The use of balloons has always been prohibited in Oro Valley. Why is there a need now?

During a recent three-month period, town staff notified a business, using balloons during a grand opening, that the use of balloons was not allowed. However, staff allowed the balloons to remain.

According to a Caton email: "... after conversation with the [facility] staff, and realizing that the balloons were for a grand opening event, our staff backed off the issue and allowed the balloons to remain."

He continued in a communication to Council Member Snider: . If we are this adamant about allowing balloons, which I know we are, then we need to change the code to allow for balloons. What we have been operating under is a “work-around” and they are easy, but not full-proof"

A New Code Emerges

Work-around means ignoring the use of balloons and not enforcing the code.

In response to the Town Managers directive, staff created a new proposed code for the usage of balloons. Balloons would be restricted to a duration of five days, and only during grand openings or change in ownership. There is no limit on the quantity of balloons. Balloons size can be up to eighteen inches, and be lofted anywhere for eight to fifteen feet from grade when attached to a structure. They can only be use on private property.

My Conclusion

The Town should always consider the General Plan, goals and policies regarding signage and the purposes for sign codes before amending the sign code.

However Town staff, Planning and Zoning Commission, and Town Council have a history of selectively citing only those policies that fit their recommendation or ignoring them. The second common approach used by these bodies is to claim the interest of business are more important than those of the residents.

There is no factual evidence from the Town, the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, or individual businesses that illuminated window signs or balloons effectively increase business. Even, the Arizona Sign Association is not aware of any studies about the effectiveness of balloons or illuminated window signs.

It is time to stop revising the sign codes based on the agendas of staff and Council. Changes should be considered based on our general plan, factual needs and benefits.

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