Business owners offer ideas for sign code

Business owners from every section of Bonney Lake attended an information meeting March 10 that was organized in response to the city’s Feb. 18 sign sweep during which more than 60 A-frame signs along state Route 410 were removed.

The meeting was hosted by the Bonney Lake Chamber of Commerce and was attended by business owners as well as Mayor Neil Johnson, members of the city staff and city council.

According to Johnson, the purpose of the meeting was to further explain the city’s sign code and take suggestions on how it could be improved.

Both city staffers and business owners said the meeting was productive and Johnson said several great ideas were generated in the hour-long session.

“I think it was worthwhile,” Johnson said after the meeting. “That’s what the process is all about.”

Community Development Director John Vodopich began the meeting by explaining the city’s sign code does not allow A-frame signs to be placed in the right-of-way surrounding city and state roads.

A-frame signs are only allowed on a store owner’s premises.

Vodopich also said the right-of-way can vary from property to property, but offered suggestions on determining how far back it goes. For example, Vodopich said utility poles are generally placed at the rear of the right-of-way.

“It’s fairly safe to say that of you are back behind the pole you are on private property,” he said.

Vodopich also said the A-frame signs allowed by city code must be less than eight square feet total, or two feet by two feet on each side.

Business owners complained about the sweep and said that during the economic downturn, their signs are more important than ever.

“We’re building Bonney Lake by providing employment,” said Jeff Ward of State Farm on Old Buckley Highway. “But if we can’t grow and be seen, we’re not going to be able to bring people here.”

Ward estimated his A-frame sign accounted to one-third of his business.

Shandor Collins of Gamebreakerz said his sign, a reader board, was important because not only is his business, located in the Tall Firs Plaza, not easily seen from the SR 410, but also because many people do not know all of the services his business offers, such as computer repairs.

“Nobody knew that until we put the reader board out,” Collins said, adding that since the sweep his repair business has “died”

“When they took the sign down, it dropped to nothing,” he said. “The sign is the most effective.”

Collins admitted his sign was “huge” but said the current limits are not big enough.

“We need something a little bigger than a two-by-two,” he said.

Izzy Anaya of ANS Auto Repair said the current limits keep signs too small for his needs due to the speed of traffic through Eastown, where his business is located, making it less likely people driving by will see his sign.

“Keep in mind we’re hurting right now and we’re looking to you to help us out,” Anaya told the mayor.

Dr, John Huynh of Mountainview Chiropractic and Wellness Center also said his A-board sign helped draw in customers.

“They see my store, they saw my A-board,” he said.

Michelle Gunn of Michelle’s Studio of Dance proposed that perhaps the city needs different sign allowances for the three sections of the city, which have three different sets of design standards.

“Some business need an A-frame,” said Gunn. “I’m hearing 410 businesses need an A-frame.”

Gunn’s primary concern was signs for community organizations and events, like the Sumner High School Big Band Dance; signs promoting that event were removed during the sweep. She pointed out signs are how many residents in the city learn about happenings.

The idea of different codes for different parts of the city was picked up by Johnson and Deputy Mayor Swatman, who said it is something the council would consider.

Business owners also asked for a temporary fix to allow more signs, especially during the ongoing recession.

Johnson said the Feb. 18 sign sweep was prompted by a complaint and that when a complaint come is, the city has no choice but to respond.

“I can’t ignore the code,” he said, but told the business owners that the city has some discretion in the removal of signs and promised “discretion will be used.”

Johnson said notes from the meeting would be given to the city council during its Tuesday workshop meeting and the council will have to decide whether or not to address the sign code.

If they decide to reopen the code, public hearings will be held at the planning commission, who will make a recommendation to the full council.

The Bonney Lake sign code can be accessed at www.codepublishing.com/WA/BonneyLake/BonneyLake15/BonneyLake1528.html#15.28

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