Council moves towards sign ordinance changes |

Council moves towards sign ordinance changes

Adam Jensen
Tony Contini / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – South Lake Tahoe businesses could be bathed in blue and white Christmas lights under changes proposed to the city’s sign ordinance this week.

Businesses would be allowed to hang low voltage, white and blue string lights for up to 90 days between Nov. 1 and March 1 under direction given by the council to city staff Tuesday.

The use of Christmas lights was a lengthy part of the council’s discussion on numerous proposed changes to South Lake Tahoe’s long-debated sign ordinance. The proposals are expected to be back before the council Oct. 4.

Allowing banners and sandwich boards on a seasonal basis and under certain conditions, not requiring a permit for the painting of signs and establishing an opportunity for exceptions to the sign ordinance through a “locally unique” designation are among the possible changes to the ordinance.

The council was split on whether to allow businesses to put up string lights all year. Councilwoman Claire Fortier contended Christmas lights on every building all year around could be “tacky,” while Councilman Tom Davis said he felt the lights would provide for a more festive atmosphere in the city and could even improve security around some businesses.

Making the city look nicer, as well as giving teeth to an often ignored ordinance are two of the major reasons the city council is moving forward on the changes, according to council members.

“The attempt with the sign ordinance is to clean up our town,” Fortier said.

Enforcement of the ordinance has been problematic in the past, and Angela Swanson said she still felt “very unsettled” by the ordinance’s enforcement mechanisms.

Businesses would have 10 days to correct a violation of the sign ordinance before the city could begin imposing a fine under the proposed changes. The amount of the fine has yet to be determined.

“The whole point of this exercise is to get something enforceable and then enforce it,” Swanson said.

Also on Tuesday, the council also gave initial approval to a Sign Replacement Incentive Program designed to help business owners with the cost of bringing their signs up to code.

Because of Caltrans improvements in upcoming years, the program is expected to start between U.S. Highway 50 between Trout Creek and Ski Run Boulevard before moving to other areas of the city.

The program will be funded by using $140,000 in reserves from the city’s 2011-2012 budget.

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