A U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the constitutionality of the sign code in an Arizona town prompted the City of Delta to examine its own policies.
City attorney David McConaughy reviewed the existing sign policy and found areas of non-compliance. The basic issue, he said, is one of "content." It is unconstitutional for the city to have different rules for different categories of signs -- yard sales, political signs, real estate for sale, upcoming events, commercial enterprises.
"Anything based on content is unconstitutional," McConaughy said. "A sign is a sign."
Attempts were made to "tweak" the existing sign code, but members of the Delta Planning Commission found the resulting sign code to be cumbersome and hard to follow. So using models from other communities, the city's planning staff started over. The result is a "big improvement," McConaughy said, that puts the basic requirements for commercial signage into a simple chart.
The chart outlines the maximum square footage allowed for signage, factoring in zoning and the size of the building.
Other highlights include:
• Each business is allowed one neon sign, to be placed in the window. It may have a scrolling message, but may not blink or flash. Electronic messages must be static and may only change once per day.
• A sign permit is required for all signs exceeding six square feet in area. There is a $25 permitting fee.
• Legally permitted signs in effect prior to the effective date of the sign code may continue to be used as long as the sign is maintained or not changed materially. Changes will require a permit.
• Signs that do not display a message for more than 30 days shall be deemed abandoned and must be removed. If the business or activity being advertised on the sign is closed or abandoned, the sign must be removed.
• Signs not maintained in good order shall be deemed abandoned and must be removed.
In response to a question from a councilmember, Glen Black, community development director, said billboards placed in the back of pickups and placed off site are no longer allowed.
City staff will be taking inventory of signs that don't meet the new code. Property owners will be notified and given a deadline for taking action.
Otherwise, enforcement will be "complaint driven," in the same manner as any other issue determined to be a "nuisance." Violation of the sign code has been added to the list of items declared to be nuisances in the municipal code, providing an avenue for abatement and cost recovery.