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Rules hurt citys 'shop local' efforts

Blank store fronts and vacant offices are a greater blight....

I am responding to the story about using a delivery bike for a sign and the subsequent News-Times editorial about the Forest Grove sign ordinance. While I do own a rental office building that is affected by the sign ordinance, I have not attended public hearings or put my oar in the water on this issue until now.

Let me first repeat several recent happenings that I believe relate to this issue and then try to tie it all together by the end.

First I see in my utility bills and other places that the city is working on a 'Shop at Home' initiative with questions and ideas about how to encourage more residents to use local merchants.

At the same time the local, state and U.S. economies are not doing very well and businesses as well as individuals are suffering loss of income.

Both the above occur while our local government spends time, energy and money adopting and revising its sign ordinance to be more restrictive and make it harder for very small businesses to get their message out.

I applaud the News-Times for suggesting several ways to deal with restrictions that help these small businesses. Allowing businesses off the main highways to make deals with other businesses to direct customers to their shops is surely a good idea. Remember that McDonalds and other large national chains have themselves so well branded that we only need to see something like a golden arch and we know they are there.

On top of that, they have the benefit of national advertising in every medium. Small business most often cannot afford TV or even radio spots and certainly not large highway billboards and other methods to direct customers to their business.

Allowing businesses with more than one 'entrance' to have multiple A frames is also a great idea. But this will mainly cater to shopping centers.

Let me tell you about my rental clients, all small businesses with a variety of services that local residence might be able to use. They have now and have been in the past 18 months, a brick mason, a window washer, a massage therapist, a computer training company, a roofer, and an insurance agency.

They are in a building with one entrance, so even under the News-Times suggestion only one of them can have an A frame sign. Several of them feel fairly strongly that an A frame sign out in front helps steer local people to businesses they might not even be aware exist.

What is wrong with an ordinance that allows each business to have a sign with a required size and that this sign can only be out during business hours?

I hear the argument of visual blight but I say that is at odds with 'let's all buy at home.' So with one voice, the city tries to get us to shop at home while their regulatory arm tries to make it a little harder to find those small businesses to provide service.

If visual blight is really our concern, let me suggest that blank store fronts and vacant offices are a greater blight on any community than a few A frame signs. Why else would the city be pushing a shop at home program if they didn't feel the same way?

Lighten up the regulatory arm with a few common sense local ways to help us find where to shop at home. We might even keep our Public Works director out of hot water and off the front pages of the News-Times.

- Tim Schauermann owns a small office complex in Forest Grove