City is listening to small businesses |

City is listening to small businesses

The South Lake Tahoe City Council deserves praise for its decision last week to revisit a sign ordinance that has many business owners buzzing mad about alleged uneven enforcement following the transition of enforcement from the city’s planning department to the police department.

Since the police took over enforcement of the decade-old ordinance, which prohibits sandwich boards and banners, 135 citations have been handed out, ending a period where few violators were cited. Now, some businesses that have been cited, or have taken their boards and banners down, feel it is unfair when other businesses that violate the code are not penalized.

The police department cannot be expected to catch every sign violator, every time. So, where continued violations of the ordinance exist, it is unrealistic to expect the police to be able to catch every one. Meanwhile, businesses that have depended on the signage in the past are feeling the effects of less advertising. Less advertising means less revenue.

The council has promised business owners a fair hearing at a planning commission workshop. Although a date has not been set, it’s a good bet that many small, mom-and-pop businesses will arrive en masse to voice their opinions. The council has rightly created an opportunity to see if the sign ordinance needs to be recrafted to give businesses back one of their most important revenue-generating tools, while balancing the need to keep the community looking orderly.

The council understands the local economy is driven in large part by these small businesses. Without the signs businesses have depended on for years, the economy may be hurt in the long run.

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