Thornton City Council tables public sign ban

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Thornton City Council decided to table an ordinance that would prohibit all temporary signs, such as garage sale and real estate announcements, in the city’s public rights of way.

The decision to table the first reading of the ordinance was unanimously approved by the council during its April 9 meeting after council members and city staff received several opposition letters against the measure.

“Yard sales seem to me to be a part of a healthy community and signs on the major streets are the convenient way to advertise them,” said resident Karen Bueno in an email sent to the city’s Code Compliance Department.

“Our church also holds occasional yard sales for mission fund raising, and we appreciate the permission to post temporary signs on the right of way.”

Under the drafted version of the ordinance, signs promoting any special events or activities that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the city could still be displayed in the city rights of way, parks and other facilities.

Several factors, including enhancing vehicular, bicyclist, and pedestrian traffic safety; protecting the public health safety and welfare; and the degradation of “the character of the community” through “sign clutter,” were outlined as reasons in the ordinance for the restrictions.

City Code Compliance Supervisor Robin Brown said several neighboring communities already have similar sign prohibition measures in place, including Adams County, Arvada, Brighton, Broomfield, Commerce City, Federal Heights, Northglenn and Westminster.

There currently is no limit to the number of signs that may be displayed in the city’s right-of-ways, but Brown said these signs must meet several specific time, placement and location restrictions.

The city code allows signs no larger than six square feet and no taller than four feet to be displayed in the public rights of way beginning 5 a.m. on Fridays until 7 a.m. the following Sunday.

These signs, which must also be placed 50 feet away from any intersection and at least five feet away from the curb, cannot obstruct the street or sidewalk and cannot be attached to another sign or fixed objects like trees, utility boxes or cars.

But determining where signs can be placed without violating the city’s sign code can be a difficult task, said Deputy City Manager of City Development Jeff Coder.

“There are a number of challenges about saying that you can put them up some times but not all the time,” Coder said during a Feb. 19 City Council planning session, where the issue was discussed.

“There are also challenges … of where the right-of-way line is. It continues to be an understandable challenge for people with the best of intentions who try to put signs in the proper place. The problem is that the right-of-ways vary so much that there isn’t a `one size fits all’ standard for signs.”