A recent Supreme Court ruling has forced local governments to take another look at their sign code, said Roger Eastman, a city of Flagstaff zoning code administrator.

The city’s regulations on most commercial signs are OK, he said. But its regulations on temporary signs, such as A-frames, banners and open house real estate signs, will have to be reconsidered. Eastman plans to bring a number of changes to the code to the Flagstaff Planning and Zoning Commission at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The changes should make the code more content neutral and less complex.

Flagstaff City Council approved changes to the sign code after many months of wrangling in November 2014. Then in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Reed v. town of Gilbert.

The court said Gilbert placed  limits on a church's temporary, portable signs that were not applied to other signs and thus were an unconstitutional infringement of free speech. Some limits are acceptable as long as they do not apply to the content or message of the sign.

The proposed Flagstaff changes include:

--Renaming all temporary signs as “portable” signs. Portable signs include A-frames, yard signs and vertical banners.

--Portable signs do not need a permit from the city and can be left up indefinitely.

--The number of signs allowed must not exceed a total of 16 square feet per lot or parcel in a residential area and 24 square feet in a non-residential area. In order to make it easy for staff to police and businesses to stay in compliance with the code, portable signs have a limited maximum height and width under the code. A business can put up as many portable signs as they want, as long as the total square footage of all the signs is under 24 square feet.

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--No signs are allowed in public right of ways, including open house signs for realtors. However, city staff will only remove the signs if they present a danger to pedestrians or motorists. If the sign doesn’t present a danger, the owner of the sign will be contacted to move it.

--References to specific types of signs, such as display boards for daily restaurant specials, garage and yard sales signs, has been removed from the code.

--Temporary wall banners that are attached to the outside wall of business require a permit and are allowed to stay up for 30 days.

--Allowing freestanding signs to be mounted on two or more posts. These are the types of signs you usually see advertising a lot or building for sale or lease.

--The amount of area a sign posted in a window of business has been increased from 25 to 40 percent of the window area.

In the downtown area, the requirement for stanchion signs have been deleted and A-frames are now allowed, as long as they’re not in the public right of way. Staff is suggesting that only vertical banners be prohibited in this area.

The city is also considering a sign-free zone that would prohibit portable signs, including political signs, in all public rights of way along. The sign-free zone is designed to cover most of the roads in the city that run past hotels or motels. It includes most of Route 66, downtown Flagstaff and Southside, Milton Road and parts of Country Club Drive, Woodlands Boulevard, Forest Meadows Street and Ponderosa Parkway and Soliere Avenue. However, portable signs would be allowed on private property in this sign-free zone.

Also on the Planning and Zoning agenda for Wednesday is a request from MMC Devco for a minor amendment to the Flagstaff Regional Plan and an amendment to the McMillan Mesa Village Specific Plan. Devco wants to rezone and transfer 199 dwellings from one area of its property on the mesa to another area.

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The reporter can be reached at sadams@azdailysun.com or (928)556-2253.


Education/Business Reporter

Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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