Many signs still in violation of Glenwood code |

Many signs still in violation of Glenwood code

Dennis Webb Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. More than 10 years after Glenwood Springs banned pole signs, you don’t have to go far to find them.Two are located right next to each other on Pine Street across from the Hotel Colorado, at Kentucky Fried Chicken and Fiesta Guadalajara.Seeing at least three pole signs still out of compliance in town was enough to prompt someone to send an anonymous written complaint to the city earlier this month. The complaint has helped focus attention on a deeper problem – sporadic enforcement of the sign code throughout Glenwood Springs.Dean Moffatt, who served on a citizens commission that drafted the city’s sign code a decade ago, estimated that there are probably about 100 violations around town, from pole signs, to signs that are lit too brightly or remain on all night or are located off-premises, to balloons left on cars at sale lots overnight.In the case of pole signs, as it turns out, the issue for the city goes beyond a mere lack of enforcement. In a compromise when the sign code was adopted, the city gave pole sign owners 10 years to get rid of their signs, in recognition of how much some of them had invested in them. The exemption ran with the property, not the business, so that in cases such as Fiesta Guadalajara’s it was able to put its name on the sign when it took over the old Pizza Hut location as long as it didn’t make substantial changes to the sign.However, before the 10 years ran out, Karl Hanlon, the city attorney at the time, decided that a court ruling elsewhere in Colorado, although not dealing specifically with signs, left Glenwood Springs unable to require the eventual elimination of existing pole signs. In the case of both KFC and Fiesta Guadalajara, the legalities of the situation may not matter in the end. KFC plans to tear down its existing building and put up a new structure. In doing so, it will place new signs on its building and be required to take down its pole sign, said Doug Kuther, regional director for Gillette Management, which owns KFCs in several Colorado mountain communities.Jorge Gonzalez, manager of Fiesta Guadalajara in Glenwood, said he hadn’t been aware the city was trying to do away with pole signs, but he has been thinking of changing the restaurant’s sign as part of remodeling.”Now that I know the people are concerned about that, I might consider using a different kind of sign,” he said.Gonzalez’s lack of familiarity with the pole sign concern points to the larger issue of the inadequate education and enforcement associated with the sign code. Moffatt said not enforcing violations is unfair to those who have willingly complied with the code.Police chief Terry Wilson said the department enforces obvious sign code violations on its own. It works with city planners in cases that aren’t so clear.He said a nightshift sergeant recently went around downtown photographing signs that might violate lighting-related restrictions. But he said sign code enforcement is not as high on the list of police priorities as other things are.”It just never will happen as quickly as someone that is focused on that issue would like, but it is not ignored,” he said.Staffing levels in the police and planning departments limit what they can do. “We are aware that there are multiple violations out there but we really don’t have the manpower to go after them,” said city community development director Andrew McGregor.Instead, he said, the city deals with problems on a case-by-case basis, “which is a crummy way to do business, and we certainly don’t like to be in that position but we really don’t have a choice.”McGregor thinks the city sign code could use revision but he’s not sure city staff or council members want to take that on right now. “We have a complicated and difficult-to-interpret sign code. It’s a challenge for us, it’s a challenge for the consumers and businesses that need signs. It presents a constant challenge.”He also thinks signs in Glenwood don’t necessarily reflect the quality of development the city is looking for these days.Mayor Bruce Christensen recognizes the city’s staffing limitations but said he would like to see more conformity with the sign code around town, to improve aesthetics.”I would certainly think that Glenwood would be a much more attractive community if we didn’t have pole signs,” he said.Christensen thinks the city has worked hard not to be heavy-handed about the sign code and to give business owners reasonable time to comply.Kuther, of KFC, said losing the pole sign will hurt his business but he is used to going along with whatever a city requires.”Glenwood is like lot of cities. Sign ordinances change, and you lose a lot of your visibility,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 389-9119 dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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