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City eases grip on sign code variances

The changes will allow a committee to approve signs that do not meet the letter of the law

The City Council revised its sign code Monday night as a result of a suggestion given to the council Aug. 1 by Hollis MacLean-Wenzel, Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce executive director.

At MacLean-Wenzel's suggestion that meeting the letter of the law is difficult and not practical for some businesses, the council listened to her idea that an existing committee could render judgment and relieve the council of that burden.

That idea came to fruition after city staff formed amendments to the sign code and presented it Monday night for its second reading. The council gave it final, unanimous approval without comment.

To avoid the complicated process of gaining approval for signage that doesn't exactly meet the letter of the law, MacLean-Wenzel suggested a shorter, simpler process.

Small businesses, she said, have to endure a long process to gain approval of variances - and approval is not guaranteed. Her idea was to use the existing A-frame committee to render judgment more quickly on signs presented to the committee - deciding if signs meet the intent of the code.

At the council's Aug. 15 meeting, City Manager Scott Lazenby and City Attorney David Doughman agreed the proposed change would require only an amendment to the sign code, not a newly written ordinance. This adjustment of sign code procedures 'is intended to make the code more flexible and business-friendly,' Lazenby reported to the council in a Sept. 6 staff report.

The change also removes all universal restrictions on variance requests, giving the Sign Review Committee the first line of approval for all sign variance requests - not just A-frame signs.

'(Committee members) must find only that requests are consistent with the intent of sign regulations for the zone requested,' according to the Sept. 6 staff report, 'and that (the committee's) decisions balance business needs with community aesthetics.'

The idea is to give the committee enough discretion so that 'reasonable variance requests are not held up unnecessarily.'

The amendments will be effective 30 days after Mayor Bill King signs the ordinance approved at Monday night's council meeting.