City News

A lot has changed in Sedona over the last 20 years but one thing that hasn’t seen much change is the city’s sign code.

That will soon change.

Being it was last updated two decades ago, the process is expected to be long and tedious. That was proven true as the Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission discussed the issue for three hours on Feb. 7, and got only halfway through staff’s presentation. A second P&Z meeting on the topic will take place on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 3:30 p.m. in the Vultee Room at City Hall. A final draft of the updated sign code will need  City Council approval.

“We’ve been talking about sign codes for a while so it’s good to see it before us,” Commission Chairman Marty Losoff said. “Aside from traffic, probably the most calls I get or comments from people on the street or in shopping centers is sign codes.”

Sedona has one of strictest sign codes in the state as a result of maintaining the “natural surroundings, climate, history and people of the city while providing the Sedona community with its unique charm and beauty,” a city report states. Over the years, city staff has identified several elements of the current sign code that are not clear or create confusion, the draft states. These elements include:

  • Sign Area. The current code has general regulations about how sign area is measured, but is not specific enough and has led to confusion between city staff, business owners and sign designers.
  • Sign Color. The current code only includes a standard for the lightness/darkness of a background color and a general statement regarding using earth and dark colors. Unlike the development standards that define building color, the sign code does not have a standard for intensity of color. This can lead to disagreements as to whether a sign background color is acceptable or not.
  • Window Signs. There have been questions over the years regarding what counts as a window sign, how that area is measured, particularly in relation to graphics/images that may not contain specific business or product information.
  • Landscaping. The current code requires a landscape area around the base of monument [freestanding] signs. However, the city’s Land Development Code defines landscaping in a way that allows gravel, cinder, rock and bark to be considered landscaping. Therefore, the city cannot require planting, as a gravel area is technically considered landscaping.

The commission went line by line down the proposed draft with staff offering options or recommendations. At the same time, commissioners offered input on any changes to the draft they’d like to see.

“Signs are important visual communication tools that are used to convey information,” Community Development Director Audree Juhlin said after the meeting. “It is important that the city provide sign regulations that are reasonable, constitutional and balance the right of an individual to identify their business, event or idea and the right of our community to maintain an aesthetic and safe environment.”

In their presentation, Juhlin and Senior Planner Cari Meyer said the driving force behind this update to the sign ordinance is the 2015 United States Supreme Court opinion regarding content neutral signs. This opinion states that “cities cannot regulate signs based on content. If a regulation requires you to read the sign to determine whether it is permitted, it is considered a content-based regulation and is not permitted.”

Signs impacted the most by the ruling include temporary, off-premises signs such as garage sales and lead-in signs for open houses. The commission had concerns as to whether to suggest eliminating these types of signs altogether.

In order to provide feedback, business owners and residents are asked to provide input. They can do so by reviewing the draft revised sign code and fill out the accompanying worksheet online at The worksheet outlines the proposed significant changes to the sign ordinance.

Completed worksheets may be returned to Meyer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or dropped off at the Community Development Department Office at 102 Roadrunner Drive, Building 104.

“The more input we receive, the more that we can ensure that the sign code reflects the desires of the community,” Meyer said.


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