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Sign, Schmign. Lets try again

Last week's showdown at Pizza Schmizza in Forest Grove made it clear that the city's effort to come up with a recipe for regulating portable signs is a few ingredients shy of a Combo Classico.

Last week's showdown at Pizza Schmizza in Forest Grove made it clear that the city's effort to come up with a recipe for regulating portable signs is a few ingredients shy of a Combo Classico.

Schmizza owner Ron Bednar, whose restaurant sits on a high-traffic downtown corner, was no fan of the new law, which regulates portable signs on public right-of-ways, including sidewalks and medians.

The ordinance, which went into effect last year, limits businesses to one A-frame sign per property.

So Bednar decided to test the law by putting a sign on the back of his new delivery bike and parking it across the street from the eatery, which already had an A-frame sign in front.

As we reported last week, this didn't go over well with city officials, who told him to unlock his bike from in front of the United Church of Christ and bring it back to his property, where he could either stash it inside or remove the other sign.

After some finger-pointing and heated words with City Engineer Rob Foster, Bednar moved the bike and removed the other sign.

While his tactics may have been a bit out of bounds, Bednar made amends (he sent a pizza to Foster the next day) and, more important, made a point.

This ordinance is more than half-baked, but it's not quite done.

The Forest Grove City Council has agreed to review the ordinance next month. The latest idea is to allow 'tourist-oriented' businesses, such as restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts, to promote their services on street signs, similar to those seen on state highways.

We're not convinced that's needed, but would like to hear more. In addition, here are a few other ideas we'd like to see discussed.

•Eliminate the current restriction of one portable sign per property. This is unfair to businesses that share a building. One sign per business entrance would make more sense.

•Allow any property owner to host a legal sign, even if it's not for their own promotions. If Bednar can work out a deal with the church next door (free pizzas for the youth group?) he should be able to put his sign, or bike, there. This would also help businesses, such as 22nd Street Station, that are located off major streets, but have support of local businesses on the main drag.

•Find a way to allow real estate agents to advertise open houses for a limited time. Even in the age of GPS, signs are needed to help direct potential buyers to properties off the beaten path.

•Charge for the signs. Public right-of-ways are just that: public. Businesses are free to advertise on their own buildings, but the city should be paid for expenses associated with regulating signs on public property. The City of Portland charges $60 a year per A-frame sign. That won't fly in Forest Grove, but a nominal fee is appropriate.