Lion, bear and giraffe remain in limbo

City officials have yet to make the changes that would allow The Black Sheep's lion, the Bug A Boo toy store's giraffe and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's teddy bear to be out on the sidewalk legally.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted to loosen the city's restrictive sign code. But the changes don't cover the lion statue, giant teddy bear and stuffed animal giraffe that have garnered so much public attention since the city cracked down on sign code violations in spring 2008.

A Wednesday article in the Tidings incorrectly said the lion statue was allowed because of a past ordinance change covering sidewalks.

Ashland Senior Planner Brandon Goldman said Public Works Department and Legal Department staff will be drafting code provisions that relate to the use of public property, such as the commercial use of sidewalks that run by businesses.

Those draft code provisions will then be forwarded to the City Council — probably in May and June — for possible adoption, he said.

The Black Sheep lion statue remains outside the pub's doors. It would have to be jackhammered out. The statue also prevents the doors from swinging out all the way and hitting people who are standing next to the building.

Because of the safety issue, the lion statue is on slightly different legal ground than other figures.

The Bug A Boo giraffe is inside the toy store, although when the weather is warm, he timidly peeks just his head out the door.

The owners of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory put Truffles, the giant teddy bear, inside the shop last summer. They put up black electrical tape on the window to resemble jail bars, although they have since taken the tape down.

The bear once sat on a bench outside the chocolate shop, where he was one of the most photographed sights in Ashland.

Jeff Compton, co-owner of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in downtown Ashland, said he's frustrated that the city has been working so long on sign code issues but still hasn't addressed the fate of the bear and similar figures.

"They've glossed over that and convoluted it with 50 other issues," he said.

After a community outcry over the sign code crackdown last spring, the city created a Downtown Task Force that met through the summer. The task force branched out to other issues, including downtown employee parking and whether to tow people's vehicles when they have amassed unpaid parking tickets.

Goldman said the city has had to address a variety of different issues at different times because they vary in complexity.

"It's too bad it couldn't come out together as one big package," he said.

Goldman said addressing the issue of the city's ban on employees of downtown businesses parking downtown was an easy correction. The City Council only had to lift the ban, which it has already done.

Working on the sign code has been more complicated. The sign code addresses what happens on private property, Goldman said.

As for the issue of stuffed animals and figures on sidewalks, that has to do with the issue of encroaching on public property, he said

Public Works and Legal Department staff are working to prepare consistent guidelines for what items are eligible for a sidewalk encroachment permit, Goldman said.

Even when those proposed guidelines go before the City Council, the council will still have to decide whether to allow merchandise out on the sidewalk, such as the Bug A Boo stuffed giraffe, he said.

Some business owners, as well as the majority of people who responded to a Sneak Preview poll on the issue, said the city should only enforce the ban on figures like teddy bears when it receives a complaint.

Goldman said although city enforcement of many rules is complaint-driven, relying only on complaints to trigger enforcement leads to a proliferation of violations.

He said that isn't fair to businesses that follow the rules.

"The equal playing field for all businesses gets eroded when individual businesses aren't complying," Goldman said.

In loosening the sign code this week, the City Council did allow such features as a small flower vase at FlowerTyme on the plaza.

The council decided not to allow large three-dimensional signs and figures measuring up to 20 cubic feet. They had considered a proposal to allow those large items outside Ashland's historic districts, which include the downtown.

The Alfredo the Waiter statue that once stood outside Wiley's Pasta Shoppe & Eatery on Ashland Street will remain illegal since the provision for large figures was not adopted.

Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or

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