After a recent Oro Valley council vote to extend the temporary allowance of A-frame signs and outdoor displays for area businesses, town staff sought further direction from council last Wednesday evening relating to potential penalties for businesses that are non-compliant with the rules for such advertising methods.
Councilman Mike Zinkin expressed concern over the fact no coherent enforcement methods are in place.
“The only thing missing from this ordinance is the enforcement part for those few (businesses) who feel they don’t want to play fair,” he said.
Zinkin added that if a standard penalty structure were in place, there would be no reason A-frames and outdoor displays should not be permanently allowed.
David Williams, planning division manager, said if made permanent, penalties for non-compliance would default to those under typical zoning code violations, which are $1,000 a day, though he argued that such numbers are “not realistic.” Consequently, he said if penalties were implemented, they would more likely follow the same penalties that non-compliant real estate signs face: $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense, and so on, with penalties capping at $500.
Zinkin emphasized that his advocacy for enforcement was not to make money off fines, but instead to give businesses a fair playing field.
“The idea is not to slap people around,” he said. “The idea is to bring people into compliance with what the community wants.”
According to Economic Development Manager Amanda Jacobs, four businesses out of the town’s 515 businesses have had issues with compliance.
Still, town resident Don Bristow argued that those businesses not in compliance create safety threats to the public.
“Most of the businesses using outdoor displays are good citizens and have abided by the regulations requirements,” he said. “However, like in many situations, there are some that are conducting themselves as if the regulation guidelines don’t apply to them. Apparently, the guidelines for safety are not important to these merchants.”
Resident Bill Adler said what is considered “safe” or attractive for one person may not be shared in opinion by another. Some businesses, according to Adler, actually need to bend or break rules in order be successful.
“Just from the people I’ve spoken to – the automotive business – these people desperately need some flexibility,” he said. “Fast food people who are close to frontage have very few opportunities for temporary signs… there are types of business that because of their orientation to the roadway, there location in a shopping certain, need to violate it. It’s a question of degree.”
Adler said it would be important for staff to be reasonable when considering a particular business’ circumstances.
Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Dave Perry said he would never advocate for a fine structure for businesses not in compliance.
“If you do write something, I must insist it be remarkably lenient, with education and intervention that occurs much before anyone pays a fine,” said Perry. “The last thing I want to see is us having someone pay a fine for a violation on this rule. That would be unacceptable to me.”
The minimal amount of violations each year was enough for Councilman Joe Hornat to dismiss further talk of fines for non-compliant businesses.
“This is a waste of our time to even consider this,” he said. “This sounds like it is working just as is without any fines. We already have a program that, by our own numbers here, show that we’ve got five or six violations in a year. If I was directing staff to do something, I’d say do nothing.”
Though there was no motion required for the item, it was the majority of the council’s will in directing staff to avoid implementing a fine structure for non-compliant businesses.
A future agenda item was recommended to make the temporary sign relief permanent.