Maple Valley Planning Commission to consider sign code rules again

Discussion of the sign code as it pertains to community and civic groups in Maple Valley is headed back to the Planning Commission for further review.

Maple Valley City Council members gave their consensus Monday night for further review of the code and changes that went in to effect in January.

On Jan. 13 the City Council approved amending the code to allow one portable sign, commonly referred to as an A-frame, per business and per civic or community event. The city’s sign code, which was adopted in December 1999, previously prohibited all A-frame type signs.

The Planning Commission examined the issue and held a public hearing before unanimously supporting the change and making a recommendation to the City Council.

City Council members brought the subject up again because they were concerned about the visibility and awareness of civic and community events if event planners were only allowed to put up one sign.

“My concern is that the community events that make Maple Valley, Maple Valley, how do we get the word out and still be equitable,” Councilwoman Victoria Jonas said at the Jan. 13 council meeting.

At the meeting on Feb. 10 Steve Clark, Public Works and Community Development director, reminded council members that one of the driving forces behind the sign code is making sure that the code aligns with the First Amendment. To that end, it is important for the city to be “content neutral” – that is, one of the goals was to equalize the code for both public and private entities, where before it had been unequal with the city allowing no portable signs for businesses but the city was using them. Other factors that were a part of the planning commission’s deliberations included what other cities do, the number of signs that should be allowed, location of the signs, the times that signs are allowed, and the size of signs.

With council consensus, Clark said at the meeting that the next steps will include city staff reviewing the desired changes regarding special events with the city’s legal counsel, then sending that information back to the planning commission which will make a recommendation to the City Council.

“I think that there needs to be some effort to balance things out and bring the whole code into compliance before long because we just fixed one part of it,” Councilwoman Linda Johnson said at the Feb. 10 meeting.

The discussion of Maple Valley’s sign code was brought up last summer when the city’s attention was drawn to the issue of out of compliance A-boards and other non-compliant signage throughout the city’s commercial areas after complaints were received by the city, City Manager David Johnston said last summer.

Business owners reported receiving letters about out of compliance signs and some said they saw a drop in business when they had to take their signs down.

The revised sign code went into effect at the end of January.

“Because of the concerns of the council it seems like there is a need now to differentiate between the signs for example the parks department, special events, etc.,  so, that aspect, that legal analysis was not completed because it is a different legal analysis,” Patricia Taraday, who is a part of Lighthouse Law Group that represents the city, said at the Feb. 10 meeting regarding the scope of what had previously been examined in the code. “It is going to need further legal analysis in order to ensure that any changes made from here on out are meeting constitutional muster.”


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