What a difference a week makes.
By consensus, on March 22, the Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission had been in favor of moving forward on one particular portion of the city’s updated sign code — the first in 20 years.
It moved to support allowing off-premise signs for all residents and businesses except along ADOT rights-of-way, which extend 30 feet back from the roadway. However, the signs would have to adhere to quality standards set by the city.
Jump to Thursday, March 30. During a continuation of the March 22 public hearing, several commissioners reversed their feelings and during a formal vote, voted 4-2 to not allow any off-premises signs in the new sign code. Commissioner Avrum Cohen was excused from the meeting.
Several of the commissioners said the reason for the change of heart was a result of new information since the last meeting from staff, which was recommending denying any off-premises signs.
The city’s current sign ordinance prohibits off-premises signs, but provides an exemption for “lead-in signs” for garage sales and open houses. A city report states that this prevents businesses, home occupations, lodging, restaurants and others from placing off-premises signs, while allowing placement of signs for open houses and garage sales.
This recommendation from the commission will go before the Sedona City Council for a final decision. This issue is just a small part of the overall sign code update. The remaining verbiage in the update was unanimously approved by the commissioners.
Commissioners Larry Klein and Gerhard Mayer were the two dissenting votes. Both said by not allowing signs for real estate open houses, it will have a direct impact on the industry. Figures that have come up in past meetings have more than 15 percent of home sales in Sedona come as a result of open houses.
Community Development Director Audree Juhlin said cities around the country are having to update this particular portion of their sign codes as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion based on a case filed by a Gilbert church.
The report states that the court’s “opinion has significantly impacted the way cities can address signs. The primary finding of this opinion provides that sign codes cannot regulate content [sign message and words] and can only focus on such things as location, size, height, color, material and function.”
The court ruling has resulted in an all-or-nothing scenario for cities when it comes to this type of signs.
The report states that an off-premises sign is currently defined as “a sign which directs attention to a business, product, commodity, service, entertainment or attraction sold, produced, offered or existing elsewhere than upon the lot or parcel where the sign is located.”
Essentially, an off-premises sign advertises something that is not located on the same property as the sign.
Senior Planner Cari Meyer listed the following reasons why staff recommended prohibiting all off-premises signs:
- May contribute to excessive sign clutter, be distracting, or create illegible sign situations.
- May negatively impact the aesthetic beauty of the city’s natural and built environment.
- May contribute to sign litter when signs are improperly constructed or use flimsy materials.
- May negatively impact the quality of life by taking away from the appearance of the streetscape.
- Will be difficult to enforce, requiring additional resources, including staff and permit tracking software.
“I worry if we go the other way that we’ll have a proliferation of signs and I think that once the door is open a lot of people will take advantage of it,” Chairman Marty Losoff said.
Klein, a former real estate broker whose wife is a local real estate agent, said he understand the concerns about sign clutter but feels that pales in comparison to the potential impact on the real estate market in Sedona.
“You’re talking about taking money out of a lot of people’s pockets,” he said. “It’s my opinion that if you don’t allow these signs it’s going to negatively impact the real estate business industry.”