Leslie Faulkner: Change sign codes | SteamboatToday.com

Leslie Faulkner: Change sign codes

To the Steamboat Springs City Council:

The relationship business owners have with the city of Steamboat Springs is symbiotic. We need each other to make things work. It is a mutual relationship, and we need to work together.

The recent articles in the Pilot have highlighted a possible change in the antiquated sign code laws. I want to applaud the developers of Howelsen Place for trying to find a solution to the problem. However, I respectfully disagree that a uniform sandwich board is broad enough. Every business owner who attended the sign code meeting had off-Main Street businesses. When asked how long ago the present sign codes were drafted, a city official replied, “Eons.” Obviously the sign codes were written long before side street businesses existed.

In the town of Alexandria, Va., business owners appealed to their city council in an emergent fashion as a result of the dire depleted tax revenues. That city council responded swiftly and loosened the restrictions on downtown businesses so that they could advertise their products by way of increased signage to direct pedestrians to their off-Main Street businesses.

The city of Alexandria – quaint, historic, pristine with boutiques and cafes – allowed business owners to use sandwich boards and other means of inexpensive advertising that they could change daily. And the new law was enacted immediately to help struggling businesses during the recession. No red tape, voting, or city official thinktank pondering. You need it Alexandria? Will it increase sales? Let’s get ‘er done.

Alexandria is just one of several communities that have lifted restrictions on sidewalk signs and banners during the recession. David Gwalthmey, who owns a wine and coffee bar in Alexandria, noted that the lift on sign regulations has increased his bottom line by 20 percent. “This is a strong statement that supports the city’s claim to want to support small business,” he said.

I am not speaking only for my struggling lingerie business. Every retailer, restaurant owner, service and professional business in Steamboat is hurting to some degree. A gentleman recently spoke to me about how Realtors and for-sale-by-owner homeowners should be allowed to advertise their off-the-beaten-path properties with signage. It might salvage a possible foreclosure.

Also, with city budget cuts, I am disheartened that it takes three city employees to enforce and regulate sign codes. Although they most likely do not work full-time focusing on regulating the sign codes and issuing fines, the time they do spend has got to be costing taxpayers a whole lot more than the sign code fee violations collected.

One off-Main Street business owner expressed how sandwich boards can be tasteful and artful. Some small-town shopping districts have even gone the extra mile and created contests for the best chalkboard art. These positive, outside-the-box solutions are what I urge our city to embrace.

The sign code meeting was held more than two weeks ago. The only thing I have received from the city since is a reminder that I am to appear in court (from last summer’s sandwich board, “Welcome Hunters” sign and banner code violations). The code enforcer also reminded me there is a warrant for my arrest for last summer’s sign violations. But, with business down 50 percent, I do not have the money to pay the city. As business owners, we will sink or rise above this recession together. I humbly ask the city of Steamboat Springs to keep an open mind and embrace the fact that what is positive change for one individual is good for all.

Leslie Faulkner

Owner, Sweet Potato Lingerie

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