Gene Buchholz, owner of Hook, Line & Sinker, told the council the adoption of the ordinance would be premature during the current recession. He said restricting the use of A-frame advertising would hurt business on Main Street, noting that he has already seen a decline at his shop and knows that many others are struggling as well.
Councilman Kevin Romick said he appreciated the input from local business owners who submitted feedback during a workshop in July, but he believed now was the best time to put an ordinance in place and to move forward, considering that the previous ordinance, which Oakley adopted from the county when it incorporated, prohibited the use of A-frame signs altogether.
City Manager Bryan Montgomery said the new ordinance would set guidelines, recognizing the necessity of A-frame signs as a form of advertising during the recession and establishing criteria for design and placement of the outdoor advertising.
“The existing ordinance that the city essentially inherited from the county specifically prohibits A-frame signs, which have been the topic of conversation in the workshop and previous council sessions,” Montgomery said, “so the attempt here was to create an ordinance that would give greater clarity to the businesses and allow some things that we know are in practice – while we have not strictly enforced some of that code – to be practiced with regulations. … We, as staff, would much rather have a new code that is clear, that provides for some of these things rather than having you (the council) tell us to enforce the existing code, which will prohibit many of the things that concern local businesses.”
Under the new ordinance, businesses may display one A-frame sign with a maximum size of 15 square feet, and it may only be displayed during business hours. This is a compromise between the original draft and the input from business owners gathered at the July workshop. While business owners asked for two A-frame signs, the original draft restricted the use of A-frames only to businesses that were not located in a shopping center of six or more tenants. Now all businesses are entitled to an A-frame sign, but permits will be required to ensure that the sign meets ordinance specifications, although no permit fee is required. Signs not in compliance with the ordinance are subject to removal.
The council also approved the use of temporary A-frame signs for grand openings and for charity events, accepting the public input from the workshop to allow the signs as long as they do not interfere with ADA accessibility. These temporary signs are not subject to formal permits.
The new ordinance also sets guidelines for other forms of outdoor advertising such as wall signs, but in an effort to help businesses transition to comply with the new regulations, the council approved the initiation of a pilot program that would offer grant money to businesses to buy new signs or improve existing signs. The city plans to test the grant program on two local businesses, matching 15 percent of the costs to comply with the ordinance. Once the pilot program is reviewed, the city anticipates matching up to 33 percent of funds used to update or purchase signs, but buildings will be eligible for the grant only every five years.
Councilman Jim Frazier asked staff to advise the Oakley Chamber of Commerce to send a weekly e-mail to advertise the pilot program, and Mayor Carol Rios asked information about the grant be placed on the city Web site so that pilot program can begin as soon as possible.
While much text was added to the sign ordinance, which passed unanimously, some was taken out. Regulations for flagpoles and flag size were removed from the ordinance in response to public feedback opposing restrictions that could limit their ability to display flags – particularly the American flag.