Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 5:49 PM on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Proposed sign changes not anti-business

Point of View

By Sharon Minsch

I am not anti-business, but there is a serious misunderstanding about what is allowed and what is proposed in the Homer sign code. Sandwich board signs are temporary signs — defined in code as "any sign used only temporarily and is not permanently mounted."

We are not talking garage sale signs, Nutcracker signs or signs on your vehicle.

A growing numbes of businesses are choosing temporary sandwich board signs for their permanent signage.

Existing code — temporary signs under 21.60.130 — says that temporary signs on private property are subject to the following: "displayed not more than 14 days in any 90-day period." Temporary signs on public property — for example, sidewalks and rights of way — are not allowed unless approved by the Alaska Department of Transportation.Public property areas are not for selling beer or haircuts.

The proposed change is these temporary sandwich boards would no longer be allowed for 14 days. There is nothing that allows temporary sandwich boards to be used as permanent signs, yet they are popping up all over Homer. It is this proliferation of these temporary signs that has prompted the proposed change.

The purpose of the Homer sign code, among other things, is to maintain and enhance the aesthetic environment, minimize the adverse effects of signs on nearby public and private property, and enable the fair and consistent enforcement of these sign restrictions.

Small businesses are not under attack. The sign code already exists. It is not something new. The proposed change is because people are ignoring the current ordinances. While all businesses need signs, it is not anti-business to regulate them. Signs are not intended to be the only way a business attracts customers.

Small businesses are not facing an increasingly hostile environment from the sign ordinance. They are facing tough times because of the economy. Temporary sandwich board signs from one end of Homer to the other will not save anyone.

Homer does not permit Golden Arches, Outback or big franchise signs because we care about how our town looks. The Gateway Business District was created by the Homer City Council because we care about how we look. We are a state that prohibits billboards because we care about how we look.

It appears the only people who like temporary sandwich signs are the ones who have them. They are geared up to defend something that is already prohibited.

"Welcome Cruise Ship Passengers" sandwich board signs up and down our streets and sidewalks is not how we see ourselves. Every restaurant would like to put its menu out by the road so cars will slow down and see what they have — can you say "safety issue?" Every liquor establishment, grocery store and retailer would like to have the sale- of-the-day signs out by the road and on sidewalks.

I see many of the seasonal signs have been put away until the owners return in the summer. These signs were never intended to be used as permanent signage. They are in the road rights of way and sidewalks which are public property. They fly about when the wind blows and become hazardous. They block line of sight for some, are in the way of bicycle and pedestrian traffic and are just plain ugly to others.

The majority of Homer businesses comply with the sign code ordinances and have sign permits. Many are investing in new signs to make our town look more attractive. They care about how our town looks.

Some say the folks using these temporary signs are only here for the short season. They "need" temporary sandwich board signage and should not have to comply with the sign code. For every one of those short-season businesses, there is a similar year-round business supporting our town year round. These businesses have business plans that involve permanent signs; advertising in the local papers, in the yellow pages ad and on web sites; and joining the chamber of commerce, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

How is it fair to a business when the competition does not follow the code and gets special sign privileges? Does everyone think we must allow every business in Homer to have temporary sandwich boards or they will go out of business? If one business can have them, then it would be only fair that every business should be able to have them. Can you imagine what that will look like?

Get a permit and put up a permanent sign. Consider something attractive or artsy to enhance our town and your business image. Better yet, display your street address and use it in your advertising so people can find you.

There will be an additional public hearing at the planning commission before the ordinance is recommended to the Homer City Council. You can attend or send written thoughts, ideas or solutions to the Planning Department.

I see Bill Smith's new campaign signs will comply with the proposed 4x4 maximum size for political signs. ...

While Sharon Minsch is the chair of the Homer Advisory Planning Commission, she writes that "the opinions expressed are mine and I am speaking for myself as a citizen."