Proposed rules would give signs a low profile

Published on Thu, Mar 1, 2001 by Soren Velice

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Proposed rules would give signs a low profile

By Soren Velice

The Blaine Planning Commission is reviewing a set of sign regulations that would reduce permit fees and end an expired six-month moratorium on off-premise, highway and billboard signs.

To the dismay of Signpost owner Ray George, the regulations would ban billboards entirely, put stringent restrictions on off-premise signs and all but ban tall signs such as those for Denny’s and USA Gasoline with height and size restrictions. “To flat-out say no to billboards is a big mistake,” he said. “It’s the cheapest form of advertising in the area; the billboards, the off-premise signs and the freeway signs are all things that get people to businesses. Let’s reword a few of these (regulations) so they don’t hurt business downtown.” Community and economic development director Terry Galvin pointed out that highway signs are not banned. “This doesn’t eliminate highway signing,” he said, “it just limits height.”

Off-premise signs would be limited to directional use only, and the use of portable signs would be allowed only in non-residential areas. New regulations would also require business owners to keep signs clean.

The new rules were written by community and economic development staff in part to aid the conversion of downtown Blaine from auto- to pedestrian-oriented use. Steve Lawrenson, owner of Hotel International, said the commission should use caution in implementing the new rules. “The intent of the ordinance is good,” he said, “but I think it’s important we protect existing

businesses; we all hope the downtown core becomes a pedestrian area, but we need to protect driving businesses during the transition.”

Merilee Hill, owner of the Pastime tavern, was more blunt. “A pedestrian-friendly town sounds great,” she said, “but we don’t have a town full of pedestrians.”

Blaine Motor Company owner Todd Brunell was concerned that a sign he had made would be found noncompliant. “Our sign cost $1,400,” he said. “Our fear would be that we’d have to spend $1,400 for a new sign and lose the $1,400 we already spent.” Hill also expressed concern about her sign and the sign on her brother’s dumptruck at the Chevron on Peace Portal.

Galvin, however, said the new regulations wouldn’t affect signs that are grandfathered in. “Anybody that has a sign out there that was legally constructed and still has their business open is fine,” he said. The regulations address new signs and those on the property of vacated businesses. They would mandate that the text be removed from nonconforming signs 30 days after a business closes and the sign itself be removed after 90 days.

The planning commission sent the new regulations to the land use committee, which will have an open session March 14 at 5 p.m. in the council chambers. “We really want people to show up and give us their input,” Galvin said.

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