Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 3:46 PM on Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Amended version of sign ordinance stands


In calling for reconsideration of a sign ordinance amended by council member David Lewis and approved at the Homer City Council's April 9 meeting, council member Francie Roberts said she felt Lewis' change to allow sandwich board signs to be up 365 days a year was substantial enough that it needed another public airing.

Monday night, Roberts got that public airing — even though her motion for reconsideration failed and the amended ordinance stood.

Because of the way the council's agenda was set, the public could comment on the reconsideration — and in effect the year-round allowance of sandwich boards — before the council voted on it. About a dozen people spoke on the sandwich board issue, with all but one, Homer Bookstore co-owner Sue Post, speaking in favor of year-round temporary signs. A few more joined Post in writing letters urging the council to go back to the original draft of the ordinance restricting sandwich boards to 14 days in a 90-day period.

Post noted that many Homer businesses have tasteful, well designed signs, citing Barb's Video and Brian's Appliance on Main Street as examples.

"It doesn't cost a fortune to build a wonderful sign," Post said. "I do want you to know there are many of us businesses out there who have been successful without the sandwich board signs."

Most people spoke in favor of sandwich board signs, though. Monte Davis, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce, read a letter passed by the chamber board of directors supporting year-round sandwich boards. Some spoke of the success of the signs in bringing in new business.

"Signs work," said Adrienne Sweeney, owner of the Driftwood Inn and AJ's Old Town Steakhouse. "When you're a struggling business in this community, you try to get your message out."

Roberts said she had gotten lots of phone calls and messages about the sign ordinance reconsideration on both sides of the issue. Most of the calls were in support of the amended ordinance with the year-round sandwich board provision.

"I really appreciate the testimony of all the people here tonight," Roberts said. "I think it's important to honor our planning commission. To change it so quickly that night really concerned me."

In the end, though, the amended ordinance stood, with only Roberts voting in support of reconsideration and the other five council members voting against it.

The amended sign ordinance still has some teeth, though. A section prohibits changeable copy on temporary signs, meaning a message could not flash or change frequently during the day. It also limits sandwich board signs to one per lot, so businesses in multiple unit complexes like Homer Spit boardwalks would have to negotiate among themselves who gets to put out a temporary sign. Total allowable square footage for signs also includes temporary signs. Signs could only go on private property and could not be in rights of way.

The ordinance did liberalize square foot signage limits for boardwalks, so that limits would be calculated by the building and not the lot, as had been the case before.

The revised ordinance changes take effect May 1. City Planner Rick Abboud said he plans to send out notices to businesses as well as schedule workshops explaining the new rules. As of press time, a date had not been set for the workshops.

In other business, the council also:

• Passed an emergency ordinance appropriating $30,000 from the Port and Harbor Reserves to make repairs to damaged float piles in the harbor;

• Introduced on first reading an ordinance amending the operating budget up to $900,000 for repaving of some city streets;

• Passed a resolution urging the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to adopt measures reducing halibut by catch;

• Postponed a resolution supporting construction of a separate, nonmotorized path along Kachemak Drive, and

• Appointed Ken Castner, Bob Howard, Sharon Minsch, Lloyd Moore, Terry Yager, Council member Beth Wythe and Council member Barbara Howard to the Water and Sewer Rate Task Force.

City attorney Tom Klinkner had said that because Moore owns a water hauling business, there could be a potential for conflict of interest in having him make recommendations to changes in the water and sewer rates. Council member Beau Burgess noted Klinkner's objection and said the council should be aware of possible consequences.

"I recognize what the attorney is saying about his potential to influence or direct to his benefit, but excluding him feels more discriminatory to me," Council member Beth Wythe said.

The appointments passed without objection.

The city council next meets for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. May 14 at the Cowles Council Chambers, City Hall. A work session is 5 p.m. Monday.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.