They are common sights in South Lake Tahoe, taking up space on streets or sidewalks to catch the eyes of passers-by, but now outdoor business displays are receiving a closer look.
At a city workshop Thursday, about 20 community members discussed what they’d like to see in terms of outdoor displays and whether the current regulations regarding them should be changed or loosened.
The idea was for staff to find consensus, or something close to it, and then report back to City Council later this year for direction, said Development Services Director Hilary Roverud.
“Before we go out and say ‘let’s enforce our code and (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) code and get everything into compliance,’ let’s check in with the community and make sure that our rules are really appropriate for what the community wants to see,” she said of the city’s decision to move forward with the survey.
After about an hour and a half, many people in the workshop Thursday seemed to agree that limiting the amount of space for outdoor displays is necessary in South Lake Tahoe.
However, there was debate on what might be considered exceptions to the rule — such as the location of the outdoor display and the type of product it was showing.
The city code already restricts outdoor displays to 16 square feet, for those without a special use permit. TRPA regulations are even more stringent, banning most outdoor displays in the area if the merchandise doesn’t fit a certain type.
“People are confused,” Roverud said at the workshop, “and it is more complex than it needs to be, I will admit that up front.”
Both business and non-business owners have criticized some outdoor displays in the area and the way they are regulated, she said. Many of the arguments lead back to a common problem: enforcement.
“TRPA doesn’t enforce it,” Roverud said, “and the city has only sporadically enforced it.”
The city code on outdoor displays has been difficult to enforce, City Manager Nancy Kerry said. Officials don’t want to get in the way of business, but they don’t want to ignore complaints either.
“We want to be of good service,” she said at the workshop, “but we want it to be fair.”
Mick Clarke, owner of Sign of Tahoe, said outdoor displays are crucial for many businesses operating in South Lake Tahoe and rely on eye-catching exhibits. However, some businesses take it too far.
“To me, it’s important that people should hang their display as long as it’s done neatly,” he said.
Anyone wishing to voice their opinion on what types of outdoor displays should be allowed can take an online survey before the subject comes before the City Council. The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/OutdoorDisplay.
There is no set date as to when the results will come before the City Council. However, Kerry said they might be presented to the board at a March 4 meeting.