WENATCHEE — Signs not conforming to the city’s code must be removed if a structure is vacant for six months, and non-digital signs can’t be converted to digital.
Those are two rules included in the updated sign code the City Council approved Thursday.
Other changes include:
- Digital sign messages can only change after at least 4 seconds; video, movement and animation are prohibited; and digital signs can’t be mounted on buildings.
- New pole signs are only allowed within 50 feet of the highway right-of-way north of the Wenatchee River.
- Nonconforming signs can’t be altered to be more nonconforming.
- Changes in building use require removal of nonconforming signs.
There are also standards for size, location, quantity and duration of temporary signs. The code changes don’t apply to signs recognized by the Historic Preservation Board.
A draft of the code said if a business rebranded itself, such as with a new name, nonconforming signs would have to be removed. However, the adopted code omits that requirement.
Mayor Frank Kuntz suggested giving nonconforming pole signs 10 years to conform, and the City Council approved that.
“If Taco Bell is going to be there for the next 40 years, Taco Bell gets to have their very tall, nonconforming sign,” Kuntz said at Thursday’s meeting. “Chances of them becoming McDonald’s is probably pretty slim, and so that sign will be there forever. I personally struggle with that.”
He said there will be new councilmembers and likely a new mayor in the coming years, and that the council can always change the code.
Councilman Keith Huffaker said that was all right with him.
“Based on the comments that we got, based on the idea that we do want to try and make our city look a little bit cleaner, I’m OK with that, with the idea that we can tweak it if things don’t work out well in the next year or two,” Huffaker said.
Michael Noyd was one of a couple of business owners who spoke at the meeting. He said he likes some of the code updates but struggles with rules about nonconforming signs.
“So a single-tenant user moves out, the nonconforming sign comes down,” he said. “Yet ... a building that has multiple tenants, one of the tenants moves out, the sign does not have to come down. How is that fair? How is that equitable for someone that has a single-tenant building versus a multi-tenant building?”
Noyd said he’s been in the rental business for 27 years and that tenants can change every few years, especially with small businesses.
“I understand the intent of (targeting) Walmart, Target, Taco Time, Harbor Freight — all these tenants that most likely have a much longer lease term than 10 years — because you’re not going to be able to change nonconforming signs on these large companies that are going to be in existence or have their locations for a long time,” he said.
Huffaker also asked about single-tenant versus multi-tenant buildings.
“The intent of a good part of the sign code update was looking at the aesthetics of our community and the viewshed, the clutter and sign management in that respect,” said Community Development Director Glen DeVries. “There was a real interest in incentives put in place with the draft code to encourage properties to do multi-tenant signage instead of having a series of individual single-tenant signs on a property.”
The full code is available at https://wwrld.us/36asHkf starting on Page 10.