Sign ordinance to remain unchanged
August 23, 2005
After a three-hour meeting, the city Planning Commission concluded discussion about the South Lake Tahoe sign ordinance prohibiting banners and sandwich boards. It decided in its second meeting Tuesday not to address the city code again until the end of the year.
The three commissioners, minus Pat Frega who left before the meeting ended, decided the enforcement on the temporary signs headed up by the city’s police department appears to be working.
But commissioners Michael Phillips, Ron Bastian and Bob Hedley agreed the City Council may revisit the topic and review the themes discussed in the two workshop meetings on Aug. 17 and 23. The themes ranged from off-premise signs to the quality of them.
Before the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency-spawned regulation was adopted 11 years ago, numerous complaints came in to the city about the tackiness and proliferation of balloons, A-frames and banners mainly along Highway 50.
“I think we should leave what we have in place. I’ve been here 40 years and six months is nothing,” Hedley said, referring to the police department taking over the deemed nuisance last January. Before that, the planning staff alone struggled to keep up. At last count, 160 violations have been issued in a geographic sweep from one end of town to the other.
In addition, the planning staff has offered to assist the community service officers in enforcement, an aspect of the ordinance that occupied most of the meeting. Many business owners have been frustrated over what they say is uneven enforcement of the ordinance. Only two business owners, however, showed at Tuesday’s meeting.
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“I am shocked there aren’t more people here,” Hedley added. Jim Smith of Nik-n-Willies, one of the two business owners present, said he was too.
That didn’t keep Smith from speaking on behalf of the business community, driving home his point about the desperate need for some to use sandwich board signs as their primary vehicle for advertising. His pizza shop is located on Emerald Bay Road. He claimed his business dropped 40 percent when the A-frame sign was removed at the urging of police. Smith said he didn’t realize a regulation existed and insisted he’s not alone.
But commissioners who tried to sympathize with how tough doing business is in South Lake Tahoe said they learned a lot from staff on the nuisance abatement process. Violators who wish to appeal may do so in a zoning administration hearing slated every other week.
The planning staff reported that 95 percent of the signs deemed in violation are eventually removed.