Code to be more user-friendly, Supreme Court compliant
By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia
After more than two years of work, city staff is on the home stretch to completely overhaul Peoria’s sign ordinance.
While it may not be the sexiest of city issues, the sign ordinance, which has not been comprehensively updated since1989, can be the linchpin of an aesthetically pleasing city or a local business’s survival.
City Planner Lorie Dever said goals for the ordinance re-write include making it compliant with a 2015 Supreme Court decision, making it user friendly and incorporating standards that create a functional and aesthetically pleasing environment.
The process has included three planning and zoning study sessions, three city council study sessions, a reduction of words and pages by more than 50 percent and an addition of two new sign types.
“We started this process back in 2016,” Ms. Dever said. “This is definitely a comprehensive rewrite of the code.”
A recommendation from the commission is expected Feb. 1 and city council is expected to consider final approval in March.
Real estate agents are big stakeholders in the final sign ordinance.
Commissioners discussed regulating temporary signs for an event such as an open house.
Planning Commissioner Joanna Conde, also a Realtor, said using signs to guide a possible homebuyer to an open house are effective and can lead to a sale.
“Sometimes six signs are enough. Sometimes you need two signs per intersection. It depends on where the property is located,” Ms. Conde said.
The proposed code stated that such signs can be placed only four times per year and four times per instance, but after speaking with real estate industry advocates, staff removed the limit per year and increased the number of signs from four signs per open house to eight.
“We doubled the number of signs in this case,” Ms. Dever said. “We thought doubling it was appropriate because we thought it would get you there from the major entrances to the property.”
However, commissioners felt a better option was to allow one sign per turning movement within a one-mile radius of the open house property.
Commissioner Clay Allsop said the proposed regulation could cause a Realtor to use all eight signs within a short distance, causing clutter.
“We should remind the public that we are talking about the use of public property, we are not talking about private property,” Mr. Allsop said. “In my opinion, the less the better.”
Susan Nicolson, a Realtor with DPR Realty and a West Maricopa Association of Realtors member, said she was thankful for staff and the commission reaching a consensus on regulations that will affect real estate agents. She said an initial draft of the ordinance listed open houses as weekend events only. But after discussion, it was changed to weekends and weekdays. This change can help agents because they are up against deadlines that require more flexibility for open houses, Ms. Nicolson said.
“Sometimes we have a foreclosure deadline, so we need to hold open houses during the week,” she said.
Westside Signarama owner Ken Parsons met with city staff to discuss some concerns he had about the proposed sign ordinance. He said he and others were happy that staff accepted suggested changes to the proposed draft, including regulations regarding technical aspects of illuminated signs.
“The original draft also required vehicles with graphics to be parked as far as possible from the street,” Mr. Parsons said. “The current draft only requires vehicles be parked on the business property. That’s much more reasonable.”
Cities across the state and nation have been reassessing their cities’ sign codes. Aside from the needed update, the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert now requires the need for cities regulations of signs not be content-based. Essentially, this means the code cannot regulate signs based on the signs’ messages or images, or what the sign “says.”
After more than two years of work, the update for Peoria’s sign ordinance is nearly complete. At least six study sessions have been held since 2015. Here are the final dates of public meetings on the subject, 8401 W. Monroe St.
For more information visit peoriaaz.gov.
Feb. 1: The planning and zoning commission will consider the ordinance and likely make a recommendation to the city council.
March 6: Peoria City Council is tentatively expected to consider the ordinance for final approval.