City examines sign ordinance again

The Port Orchard City Council will once again tackle a proposed interim sign ordinance after tabling the issue in April.

At the May 14 meeting, the council will receive a new draft of the interim sign ordinance from the Public Property Committee, which includes Councilmembers John Clauson, Carolyn Powers and Robert Geiger.

The new ordinance will allow businesses to hang signs on the covered walkway on Bay Street — also called the marquee or awning — if the business receives approval from the city engineer.

At the April 9 meeting, the council debated an earlier draft of the ordinance that would not allow signs to be attached to the awning. Although it was not discussed openly, the conversation circled heavily around the reader board at Geiger’s theater — the only sign that currently rests on the top of the marquee.

At that meeting, Public Works Director Maher Abed said attaching signs to the top of the awning could cause damage.

Geiger argued that business owners would prefer to attach signs to the awning, describing the idea of a V-shaped sign visible from both directions on Bay Street.

Though it was not discussed openly at that meeting, the scenario Geiger proposed matches the sign attached to the marquee at his theater building.

Geiger said he believed business own-ers wanted to attach signs to the top of the awning, which contrasts with a letter from the Port Orchard Bay Street Association (POBSA) sent to Mayor Kim Abel and the city council on April 19.

The letter, signed by POBSA President Mallory Jackson, Vice President Dennis Lei and Sub-Committee Chair Brenda Kruse, recommended that “no signs shall be reattached to any portion of the remaining structure of the marquee.”

The letter echoed another sent by Kruse in October 2006, and drafted by a subcommittee of business owners who examined the issue.

“Aesthetically, the signs look better placed on the building,” Jackson said. “We’re also concerned about the structural integrity of the awning.”

Jackson added that the aesthetics are more important and that signs should remain on the buildings even if the marquee can support the extra weight.

Rudy Swenson, member of the POBSA and the subcommittee that drafted the recommendation, said he knew of no other business owners in favor of attaching signs to the top of the marquee.

“Bob is the only one I’m aware of that wants to do this,” Swenson said, explaining that the sign detracts from the appearance of Bay Street. “We made a great leap to clean up the street, and he wants to bring the clutter back.”

Swenson bemoaned the decision, saying that the ordinance is bending to Geiger’s personal preferences, not reflecting the thoughts of other merchants.

“Why do we even have an ordinance if he’s going to do whatever he wants?” Swenson asked.

Geiger said in early conversations about downtown regulations, one of the proposed ideas included allowing signs on the top of the awning. He also said that the theater has held a sign at that location since the 1920s.

It was attached to front of the marquee prior to the dismantling of the picket lining.

Powers said the Public Property Committee will make its recommendation on the ordinance after talking with Abed and determining whether the marquee could support signs on the top of the building.

The ordinance as recommended by the Public Property Committee is set to be approved at the May 14 city council meeting.

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