Council sees some signs of progress on ordinance

The Sweet Home City Council last week continued a public hearing on a proposed sign ordinance for further revisions after resolving some questions and getting closer to what the councilors would like to see in the final ordinance.

The council is mainly considering two issues: whether to count temporary signs as part of the total regulated signage and how much window coverage to allow. A third issue, whether to require existing signs to be updated to the new regulations, will be considered as they get closer to figuring out the other questions.

During their regular meeting on Oct. 12, councilors selected an option that would retain from existing ordinance the minimum 50 square feet of sign space per property regardless of the amount of frontage the property has. The option had proposed a reduced minimum of 32 square feet.

Under existing ordinances, properties may have 1 square foot of signage for each linear foot of property frontage.

The council selected by consensus an option that will generally increase the total square footage for properties by accounting for depth of the property as well as frontage.

Right now, signs set more than 100 feet from the property line are not limited; the proposal will impose limits on those properties. For example, the Storage Depot, located in the Midway area, will have a limit of 1,115 square feet of signage, based on 915 feet of frontage and a property depth of 268 feet. Right now, it has no limitation.

Based on the same criteria, Circle K would be allowed 191 square feet of signage. Right now, it is limited to 100 square feet.

Sun Motel would increase from a limit of 100 square feet to 317 square feet.

Councilors found that the limit of 100 square feet was inadequate for many businesses, but they remained undecided about how much signage should be allowed to cover windows and the location of temporary signs.

The council reached a consensus to accept a restriction against covering murals painted as part of the Sweet Home Economic Development Group Murals Committee program.

The proposed ordinance also prohibits signs on vehicles that are not used in daily operation of a business.

The council did not reach a consensus on whether to include a sunset clause, which would require all non-compliant signs to be updated to the new code at a specific deadline.

The council is probably not headed toward including a sunset clause, said Mayor Craig Fentiman.

Community Development Director Carol Lewis provided photos of businesses with signs in windows throughout Main Street.

Businesses ranged in coverage from just a small percentage to complete coverage, with many in an estimated 30 to 60 percent range.

At this point, the council is leaning toward not counting temporary signs in the total amount of signage on a given property, with up to 60 percent of windows to be obscured by signs.

Councilor Greg Mahler, who manages Hoy’s True Value Hardware, told his fellow council members that he has concerns about limiting temporary signs by including them in the overall signage limit.

Some months he has a lot of temporary signage to put up based on franchise requirements, he said. Other months he has little extra signage.

He’s pushing 200 square feet of regular signage, he said, and sometimes, he’ll have an extra 120 square feet of temporary signs.

Mahler said he would like to exclude temporary signs from the total permitted signage.

Scott McKee Jr., who works for Safeway, said he is leaning toward 50 to 60 percent window coverage at each business.

Less than that, he said, would be ridiculous for a place like Hoy’s.

Tom Hammons, former chair of the Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort Steering Committee, pointed to the True Value hardware and Thriftway grocery stores in Estacada, which are hanging their signs inside the building.

“I think we all saw the Center Market (Hilltop Market in the Foster area) with signs on the fence and on the windows,” Hammons said, noting that that’s one of the problems he would like to see regulated.

“I can understand citizens looking at that and being upset,” Mahler said, referring to the temporary signs on a fence next to a residence.

Hilltop Market and the Coffee Hut, in the 2400 block of Main, caught Councilor Ron Rodgers’ eye, he said.

Coffee Hut has a number of temporary signs placed around the property.

Most complaints about signs refer to Speedee Mart, at the intersection of 15th and Main, Lewis said. In general, the complaints and concerns seem to be about clutter.

Mahler suggested restricting temporary signs that are not attached to a building.

“Frankly, that’s a mess,” Rodgers said, in reference to Hilltop’s fence signs. But Speedee Mart’s signage is mostly on the building. “People may not like it, but that’s the nature of the business. I don’t own a minimart, but that’s how my store would look.”

That’s what sells its products, he said. The signs there also cover a deli preparation area.

McKee pointed out that the signs also cover the backs of cigarette cases.

The council continued its hearing until Oct. 26. In the meantime, Lewis will incorporate the council’s ideas into the proposal.

The council may close the public hearing on Oct. 26 and hold its first reading of the new ordinance. It would hold the second and third reading of the ordinance at its next two meetings. It can adopt the ordinance after the third reading.

The ordinance revisions are based on the request of SHARE nearly two years ago to look into how the sign ordinance could be used to improve the appearance of the downtown area, by eliminating abandoned signs, for example. It has been discussed and considered by the Planning Commission prior to entering the public hearing process with the City Council.