City Council amends sign ordinance for businesses |

City Council amends sign ordinance for businesses

Robert Stern

The South Lake Tahoe City Council approved amendments in March that will make it easier for business owners to comply with the sign ordinance.

The amendments need approval from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which tentatively will vote in April, said public relations officer Pam Drum.

The existing ordinance has created road blocks for business owners who want to improve permanent signs. In some circumstances street-distance location and landscaping requirements can not be met because of physical limitations on the property, said City Planner Gary Marchio. In other instances, the regulations make improvements too costly and nothing gets done.

“Once the code is approved by everyone, we can tackle the issues of temporary signs,” Marchio said.

Temporary signs, which are widely used in South Lake Tahoe, are prohibited here and in many other communities, he added.

The TRPA is putting together a pamphlet, which will be distributed and paid for by the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and the South Tahoe Lodging Association and will inform people on the laws governing signs.

“The chamber is trying to balance what is a merchant’s clear need to properly sign their business with the attempt to avoid being tacky,” said Duane Wallace, executive director for the Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber and Lodging Association have estimated that 80 to 90 percent of business owners would comply with the law because of the pamphlet. The rest would be dealt with through enforcement.

“We don’t want to come down with the hammer,” Marchio said. “We want the soft-sell approach.”

The theory is by educating people about the ordinance, the oversaturation of signage can be eradicated.

“No city has a perfect sign ordinance,” Wallace said. “We have been working for ages and a lot of people want us to be like Carmel where signs are the size of a letter, but people don’t walk by our businesses. They drive.

The last sign ordinance was approved in 1994 and although the city planned on making adjustments in 1997, reduction in TRPA staff prevented the amendments from moving forward. The most recent amendments include adjustments which the TRPA has asked for.

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