Steamboat Planning Commission recommends new portable sign rules

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— After last summer’s dry run with allowing some portable signs in downtown Steamboat, the city Planning Department is moving forward with making the change permanent.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday night sent the change to the Steamboat Springs City Council with its stamp of approval.

“We did a suspension last summer on the prohibition of these types of signs as a test with somewhat mixed results,” Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said Thursday.

The test was to see if there was any reason to continue the city-wide ban on portable signs or if there was a way to create a program that would serve the whole community and still respect proper safeguards for public safety, he said. The safety risk of signs is that pedestrians could trip on them or that a strong gust could make the sign an airborne projectile.

But before business owners start readying signs in anticipation of the City Council approving the change, there will be rules for commercial districts across the city.

Gibbs said like the past summer, those wishing to place a portable sign in front of their business would be required to obtain a permit. The permit fee will be lower this time around, with the two fees — for the revocable permit and the sign — being cut down to one $75 permit.

“But we are going to get more rigorous about enforcement,” Gibbs said. “We were fairly gentle about enforcement last year because it was an experiment.”

Code enforcement officer Barb Wheeler will be looking beyond the downtown commercial district to all districts covered by the new ordinance, including the gondola base area.

The ordinance allowing the signs includes language that would allow the city to pick up offending signs after the owner has been warned.

‘We would be prepared to use this enforcement tool,” Gibbs said. “We think we’re making a opportunity available that merchants have requested. We think we’re making it available at a nominal cost.”

“How much input or notice have you solicited from impacted areas?” Planning Commission member Kathi Meyer said. “Are they aware of this, or is this going to hit council and be a surprise?”

In the event the change is passed, Gibbs said, the Planning Department would look to get out ahead of any enforcement issues by contacting organizations that represent businesses in different districts and potentially even creating flyers to distribute to individual businesses.

The example sign that was fabricated last summer still is sitting in Gibbs’ office, he said, and a few businesses have expressed interest in a similar design.

The next challenge is to work with the local fabricator to streamline the production process, but Gibbs did say that the original design did try to match the price to other commercially-available signs.

Rather than the signs sometimes handed out by beverage company representatives, the city hopes business owners will get creative with the signs they put out.

“Let’s make this fun, let's make this creative,” Gibbs said. “Creative variations are encouraged, and we’re willing to consider some dimensional variation with a review.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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