Our View: New signs for the times

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Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Although the economic crisis alone is not significant reason to allow or encourage deviation from Steamboat Springs' sign code, it is bringing to light potential shortfalls in existing downtown signage and the code itself.

We're encouraged by the efforts of some downtown business owners and city planning staff to improve wayfinding in our historic shopping district through long-term solutions. Compromising on short-term solutions may be a tougher battle.

Late last week, several downtown business owners met with city code officers and planning officials to express their concern that their businesses could fail if the city doesn't provide some leniency with sign codes. Specifically, the business owners - whose stores are off Lincoln Avenue - wanted permission to use sandwich boards and banners to attract more potential customers. The sign code prohibits sandwich boards and easel signs in the downtown shopping district, and several code restrictions make banners a very temporary solution.

City planning officials correctly steered the business owners away from sandwich boards, which often are unattractive and a clutter on downtown sidewalks. Instead, Mark Scully, of Green Courte Partners, suggested a temporary solution of street-corner signs that would serve as directories for side-street businesses. Such signs would deviate from what's permitted in the code.

Senior city planner Jonathan Spence said such signs would be directory, not commercial, in nature. Nonetheless, they're likely to raise the ire of business owners whose shops have Lincoln Avenue storefronts. Those businesses pay higher rents for their premium locations and may not be amenable to signs pointing potential customers in other directions.

That's a defensible position, but we believe it's in the best interest of the entire downtown shopping district to create a vibrant scene that encourages pedestrians to venture beyond Lincoln Avenue.

And that's why a potential long-term wayfinding plan for downtown Steamboat Springs makes sense. Unfortunately, wayfinding was excluded from a $439,000 downtown streetscape improvement plan performed by Britina Design Group. But Mainstreet Steamboat Springs and city planning officials are looking at successful wayfinding plans enacted in resort communities such as Moab, Utah, as a blueprint for what could be put in place in Steamboat. Modeling new programs off the successful ventures of similar cities is a smart move, and just as we need and are getting better signage at the base area, so too it is needed in our downtown shopping district. Pointing visitors in the direction of shops, historical sights and public buildings and monuments is a good thing.

Moab uses triangular signs on its street corners. The signs include maps and area information. They're useful to visitors and help the city and its businesses direct visitors to shops, restaurants and other significant sights. Future changes to the downtown stretch of Lincoln Avenue - specifically the sidewalk bump-outs planned for street corners - will provide the extra space needed for such signage.

The city, in partnership with the business community, should strongly consider what changes might be needed to the sign code to effect positive, long-term change in downtown wayfinding. Doing so makes sense for all downtown businesses, not just those located off Lincoln Avenue.

Comments

justice4all 5 years, 1 month ago

I am a frequent visitor to Johnny B's on Lincoln. The other day I asked where the "special of the day" sign was that normally sits on the street, against the building, to inform us uf the day's special. I was informed that since it sat on the sidewalk and was not attached to or suspended from the building. it was in violation of the sign code. By the same thought, is F M Lite's horse or Ben Franklin and his friends sitting on te sidewalk a few doors West or the Smokehouse pig or the racks of clothing or the Steamboat Pilot newspaper racks or the free real estate brochures and the list goes onnnnnnnnnnnn and onnnnnnnnnnn that are also sitting on the sidewalk in violation? The above list was present in our town a long time before anyone that makes these rules were. Leave our merchants alone or enforce the rules equally for all. We have lost so much of our "local identity" because of this type of rules. To the "POWERS TO BE" leave our town alone or just leave our town!

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justice4all 5 years, 1 month ago

Sorry about the spelling above but my thought and statement stands. Please post your thoughts about this.

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