Sign code reaction mixed

Tuesday night's City Council decisions on the sign ordinance have made many local business owners very happy, and left at least one wondering why he was forsaken.

The ordinance loosened many previous restrictions in the historic downtown area.

"I'm really happy with the decision," said Lou Ann David, owner of FlowerTyme on the Plaza. "It allows me to put the flowers in a basket by our front door. It distinguishes our business and adds color and character to our town."

Under the previous code, the basket of flowers would not have been allowed.

"Before, technically, if enforced, we were not allowed to do that," David said. "We wouldn't be able to put anything three dimensional outside our doorway."

The new sign code allows for greater flexibility concerning many different signs, especially in the historic district. Menu boards, A-frame signs and others now have a concrete code to go by.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the decision.

Wiley's World Pasta Company on Ashland Street was hit hardest by the new ordinance. The restaurant's statue, Alfredo the Waiter, was illegal before Tuesday's vote and the City Council chose not to make changes that would have allowed for such large figures.

"I really don't think that the City Council is acting in the best interest of the community and the business owners," said Bob Ellis, nine-year employee of Wiley's World. "Alfredo the Waiter is sitting in storage right now, at the Wileys' home."

Ellis went on to say that the statue was not in anyone's way, and that it served as a landmark for the business, guiding new customers to the restaurant. Ellis said the restaurant was faced with fines of up to $250 per day for having the statue in place.

City Planner Brandon Goldman said, "The City Council was not looking at any individual business; we were looking at implementation of a sign code that applied universally," Goldman then said, "Once you apply the sign code everywhere, the council was looking at the cumulative visual impact."

Then there is the issue of the lion and the bear.

According to Goldman, the lion statue outside The Black Sheep is considered a sidewalk encroachment issue, and will be dealt with at a later time.

The bear at The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is considered a corporate logo, and the issue is whether or not it can be located in a public right of way.

"All of the signs under review are on private property," Goldman said. "Both the lion and the bear are on public property and are encroachment issues. Is there enough room for pedestrians? All of these issues came at the same time and got convoluted."

There are emotional attachments to these local icons.

"So many people come up and say, 'My child grew up with that bear, why is it inside?'" said Zoryn Thompson, a seven-year employee at Rocky Mountain Chocolate.

"The legal department is working on an ordinance to how the city allocates for private or commercial use," Goldman said. "The lion and the bear are in limbo."

The new sign ordinance voted on Tuesday is all-encompassing, setting new standards for business signs in Ashland.

"In every case that the City Council approved," Goldman said, "there are no new limitations, just new allowances."

The new allowances are greatly appreciated in the historic Railroad District.

"We are really pleased," said Nort Croft, volunteer facilitator for the Railroad District. "We got two of the three things we were interested in. We wanted directional signs, pointing people to the district, and we wanted street sign toppers, recognizing the district."

Another issue that especially helps the Railroad District is the allowance of signs on previously banned areas. In the past, the code allowed signs only on two sides of a building. Now the code allows proper signs to be placed on any side of a building that has a public entrance.

Tuesday's vote allows for 3-D signs up to 3 cubic feet in the historic areas and in outlying areas. No sign over 20 cubic feet is allowed.

Share This Story