Atwater City Council discusses sign ordinance

05/30/2014 9:31 PM

05/30/2014 11:43 PM

Around and around the sign-twirling issue goes.

The City Council on Monday looked at a working draft of the city’s sign ordinance, including recommendations from the Planning Commission to allow human billboards to continue in the city. The council originally discussed banning the sign-twirlers, but the new ordinance only requires them to stand at least 100 feet from an intersection.

The ordinance also would limit human billboards to 60 days per year, but the council advocated removing the time limit. “If we could just take out the specific time, that’s just my suggestion,” said Mayor Joan Faul.

Outdoor promotional flags would be banned by the ordinance, but the mayor didn’t agree with that recommendation.

“I really think they should be removed from this section as prohibited because I’ve gotten a number of calls from people in regards to these flags and their use in small business,” Faul said.

Councilman Jeff Rivero took issue with the ordinance’s limit of just one promotional flag per business. “I think one is too minimal; I would like to see two or three,” Rivero said.

Air dancers – inflatable devices powered by fans to cause movement – would be prohibited, as would electronic message boards and roof signs. Garage-sale signs would be allowed only at the location of the sale.

The ordinance also creates guidelines for political signs, allowing two per candidate or issue for no more than 140 days. The signs could not exceed 16 square feet in area and 4 feet in height.

The council also discussed requiring out-of-area candidates to pick up a pamphlet about the new rules.

Atwater business owner and resident Eric Lee said the recommendations aren’t stringent enough.

“I just want you to think for a second what it would look like if every business on Broadway had one of those flags in front of it. Now think about two flags. And now think about three flags,” Lee said. “You will be revisiting this issue again if this is the route you go, because what your community is going to look like is not going to be something that you want.”

However, Atwater Chamber of Commerce president Connie Hunter said the signs provide a boost to small businesses. She said owners have agreed to replace worn-out or torn flags.

“We need to keep the flags,” Hunter said. “The businesses suggested limiting them to a rotation schedule, but we need them. The locations of the businesses are not noticeable to the public, and they can’t afford to pay for other forms of promotional media.”

The ordinance would allow “scenic corridors” – main roadways into the city – to have different requirements for signs. Violations could be punishable by a fine up to $500, according to the ordinance.

The City Council recommended sending the ordinance back to the Planning Commission for revisions before it returns to the council. It will require two public hearings before it can be adopted.

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