Monday, April 3, 2017

Editorial: "Do your job. Enforce the Town Sign Code"

A recent Freedom of Information request by former Councilmember, Bill Garner, has uncovered what many of us have suspected for a long time; that is, that the department headed by Paul Keesler (Community Development and Public Works  (CDPW) is not doing its job.

One of the things this department is responsible for is Code Compliance. The Town Council, with the advice of staff, passes Codes which are the law. It is not the responsibility of the CDPW to interpret, weaken, or disregard the Code. Their responsibility is to enforce the Code.

Examples of how the CDPW has been delinquent in performing its duties
On Nov. 3, 2016, a Senior Planning Technician (Patty Hayes) advised the Inspection and Compliance Manager, Chuck King, that the Canyons at Linda Vista Trail (Kneader's Bakery) was not in compliance with Section 28.2 of the Zoning Code which mandates that development must follow the approved sign criteria or Master Sign Program. Ms. Hayes advised Mr. King that the signs didn’t appear to match the approved plans. Mr. King's e-mail response, on the same day was:

"Ahh yes a thing of beauty wouldn't you say Patty? What would you like us to do next, Patty?"

King's response is an embarrassment.

Instead of investigating the allegation and enforcing the Town Code, King responded with a flippant question. It is not Ms. Hayes' responsibility to tell Mr. King what to do. It is Mr. King's job as Inspection and Compliance Manager to enforce compliance, not to shrug it off.

The job of educating businesses about the Code is one of the responsibilities of Amanda Jacobs, the Town’s Economic Development Manager. However, various e-mails reveal that Ms. Jacobs is involved with the enforcement program. Her job is not to enforce the Code and since she is on the Board of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, her involvement in enforcement could create a conflict for her when a business violates the Code

The Council passed the permanent A-Frame/Outdoor Ordinance on September 7, 2016. A week later on September 13th, Mr. Keelser emailed Chuck King, Amanda Jacobs, and Town Planning Manager, Bayer Vella, calling for a meeting. The Town's permanent sign and outdoor display code was going in place on October 7, 2016 and apparently there was some concern over how they were going to enforce the new code. There should have been NO concern. Mr. Vella, responded to the call for a meeting by stating, "Your call. If the Code is not enforced in the field, I want no part of this discussion or action."

Why would Mr. Vella feel that the Code would not be enforced? Perhaps it was because just one hour prior, Mr. Keesler emailed:

"I look at it as going 5 mph over the speed limit - no problem. 20 mph over the limit, you are hauled off in handcuffs. So 20 or 25 feet away from the entrance, not a problem. In the middle of the parking lot in an island - problem."

The Town Code is the Law and should be Enforced
One might wonder if this mentality continues when it comes to building and development inspections. Do they condone side setbacks of 4.5 feet when they are required to be 5 feet? How about wall studs that should be 16 inches apart, but are installed 17 inches apart? If it is alright for a monument sign not to reflect the approved plans, is it also alright to allow a mandated 7000 sq. ft. lot to be shortened to 6800 sq. ft. instead?

Again, Mr. Keesler’s job is not to interpret or give leeway to the Town Code. When the Town Council votes for a particular Code, they expect it to be enforced. If the code states that A-frame signs must be within 20 feet of the store, that does not mean 25 feet. Today we see signs well in excess of 20 feet from the front of the store and in the parking lot islands.

During Council discussion prior to the vote on the new Sign Code, Mr. Vella stated that Play It Again Sports would NOT be Code-compliant under the new Code and they would have to go to the Board of Adjustment to request a “Code Variance.” The Code went into effect on October 7, 2016 and it was not until five months later on March 23, 2017, after a complaint from a citizen, that the CDPW Department finally informed this business that it was not Code-compliant.

Dereliction of Duty
LOVE realizes that the Mayor and current Council, as well as the Interim Town Manager would probably label this editorial as “anti-business” or a “denigration of staff.” We call it “dereliction of duty” as there is empirical evidence that Mr. Keesler and his staff continue to disregard the Town Code and this is condoned by the Interim Town Manager, Mayor, and Council.

The question is WHY are they so lax in enforcing the Code? Is it because they are beholden to Dave Perry, President of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce (GOVCC)? We’ve heard his many speeches before Council always advocating for businesses to have more signs, more lighting, etc. It’s probably safe to conclude that he would not want this Sign Code enforced to the letter of the law. We also question where Amanda Jacobs’ loyalties are directed, being that she is on the Board of the GOVCC.

Six-Figure Salaries
If you agree that it’s unacceptable for Town employees earning six-figure salaries to be so negligent in their job duties, e-mail the Town Council and the Interim Town Manager with your thoughts or come to the April 7th council meeting and speak about this at the initial Call to Audience. The Call to Audience is one of the first items on the agenda, so if you do not desire to stay for the entire meeting, you should be out of there by 6:45 PM.