Retail signs line the Sterling Highway in Soldotna, where the city council is working to change the codes regulating their size, height and placement.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Soldotna businessmen don’t approve of proposed changes to the city’s sign regulations.
Most told the Soldotna City Council the new rules are unnecessary and costly.
“I encourage you to go around town and see just how this would impact people,” said Norm Blakeley, co-owner of Blakeley’s Auction Company.
“Look at the Trustworthy (hardware store) sign. It’s about nine feet from the curb,” Blakeley said.
“They just built a brand new building with a new sign that was about $20,000 or $30,000 and they would have to take it down and move it,” he said.
“You should think about at least grandfathering in the signs people already have,” Blakeley said.
He was speaking during the first of two public hearings scheduled on the proposed ordinance, which would change the municipal code regulating size, height and placement of signs within the commercial district.
Among proposed changes, freestanding signs would have a 20-foot height limit and a setback limitation of 20 feet from the back of the curb. The current city code permits signs as high as 35 feet.
Blakeley also pointed out the city’s informational sign in front of City Hall.
“It would have to be moved too,” he said. “I hate spending money when it’s unnecessary.”
Bill Hart, who said he is “charged with managing” the recently opened Alaska Maxi Storage facility on the Kenai Spur Highway, said he spent “an ungodly amount on the sign.”
Although Alaska Maxi Storage currently is outside Soldotna city limits, Hart said he has agreed to having the property be annexed into Soldotna.
“I can’t afford to give (the sign) up,” Hart said. “I’ve got computers tied into that security tied in. I thought it would be grandfathered in.”
He said the large sign, which features computer-generated graphic displays, was erected with the expectation it would be there 30 years. He said the ordinance “would cause our business great harm.”
“I think we have a pretty good sign as far as quality,” he said.
Pat Hawkins, who said he is co-owner of Hawk’s Games with his son, Brian, defended freestanding signs of other businesses around Soldotna.
“Fred Meyer has a nice sign; Safeway has a nice sign; Johnson Tire ...” Hawkins said.
“I have some real concerns. Those are nice signs. They’re not obtrusive. We could grandfather them in,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with those signs.”
Jim Fassler said he agrees with the business people that many of the signs in Soldotna are nice and should be allowed to remain as is.
“The sign at the new storage facility is nice,” he said. “You can read it as you drive by.”
Fassler said he did not feel the same about the new sign in front of the Soldotna Sports Center.
“It’s too small,” Fassler said. “If you try to read it while you drive by, you’re gonna get in an accident.”
One businessman objected to a proposed prohibition of placing signs within a defined sight triangle that could impair the view of people entering or leaving a parking area or loading zone.
Signs would not be allowed on either side of the driveway in a triangle extending 35 feet along the right of way from the middle of the driveway, and back 25 feet toward the interior of the property.
“You’ve got that triangle,” said Dan Mortenson, owner of 4D-Carpet 1 flooring store.
“It eliminates six parking spaces at every entrance and exit,” Mortenson said. “It would eliminate half my parking.”
Only one person spoke in favor of the ordinance that would alter the sign code.
“There does need to be some regulation,” said Bruce Vadla.
“If signs get too big, and you get too many, it’s gonna make the town look like crap,” he said, adding he did not want Soldotna to end up looking like Wasilla.
Council member Scott McLane said he would like to see city administration come back with proposed language that would allow existing signs to be grandfathered in, and suggested the 20-foot setback requirement specify the sign must be placed on the owners own property.
A second public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Jan. 24.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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