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Sign-Code News Roundup: Win Some, Lose Some

Ordinances convey city officials’ unpredictability



Whatever type of sign you build, and whether you design, build, specify or broker signs, you’d probably agree that sign codes, in particular changes to local ordinances, may create minefields that impeded your ability to do business. However, sometimes there’s good news to report about local officials developing common-sense regulations that balance economic development with quality of life. And, on occasion, a report that a city commission has decided to table an issue until it can develop a sensible plan constitutes victory.

Here’s another roundup of sign-code news that, as usual, can be summarized as “win some, lose some.”

• On Thursday, Jan. 19, Enid (OK) city officials unanimously passed an ordinance that banned new billboard construction while also forbidding inflatable signage and temporary signage without a special-event permit. However, the ordinance also included a positive change: it reduced dwell time on changeable signage (both electronic displays and mechanical, tri-vision signs) from five to three seconds. See the full story here.

• Federal Way, WA officials approved two amendments  to its sign code. One, which relates to what the Federal Way Mirror referred to as “high-profile signs”, would allow pylon signs up to 25 ft. tall, with 400 sq. ft. of signage area. Sites with these types of signs must be multi-tenant properties, with 250 ft. of linear, right-of-way frontage. The other greenlights wall banners, provided they’re attached to a building facade and comply with square-footage limits.

The Oregonian reported  that the Damascus (OR) City Council received complaints about a Goodwill tractor-trailer that was being parked in the local shopping center for use a portable donation center. Residents complained that the trailer’s graphics constitute a sign, and thus exceeds the town’s 64-sq.-ft. sign limit (Goodwill used to operate a brick-and-mortar store in Damascus, but vacated when it couldn’t afford a rent increase). City Manager Dan O’Dell suggested the truck be moved, but the Council decided in early January that the truck could remain until they clarified its sign code.

• Brookfield, WI’s aldermen on its planning commission expressed approval  for a sign-code variance that would allow a large, storefront sign for a Trader Joe’s store to be built at the Underwood Crossing shopping center there, according to the Brookfield site. When he addressed the town’s aldermen, Tony Barranco, retail-development director of the Ryan Cos., the Minneapolis-based developer in charge of the store’s construction, said the project “would be dead” without the sign’s approval. A vote to approve the variance may come as soon as February 7.


• According to the Aspen Daily News, the Colorado resort town’s community-development department has resorted to dispatching police officers  to locations with noncompliant signs. In one particular case, a cop was dispatched to serve a citation for a $125 fine during lunch hour to owners of La Crêperie du Village because its sign was 14 sq. ft. too large. That certainly couldn’t have made a positive impression on Aspen’s upscale tourists, and seems an excessive response and a waste of law-enforcement resources (and, by extension, tax dollars)

Do you have any sign-code war stories? We’d appreciate hearing about what issues you encountered, and how they were resolved. Contact Sr. Associate Editor Steve Aust at or (513) 263-9308.



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