The signs, as it were, have been there for a while. But if history has been any judge, they all point to a lot of work ahead – and not everyone being satisfied with the results.
That, basically, sums up the long, convoluted tale of Spokane Valley’s sign code. And at some point in the near future, according to the City Council, it will be addressed yet again.
That fact was confirmed at the June 8 council meeting, when Council Member Brenda Grassel said that she has heard many concerns from community members – not just business owners along Sprague Avenue – about the sign code in general being too restrictive.
“We do have to address that,” she said at the time.
But as the council is embroiled in the arduous process of reviewing the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan – which the majority of the council wishes to overhaul either by code text amendment or through annual changes to the comprehensive plan – it may be some time before this group of council membership gets around to it, as it is an extensive, citywide issue.
“Let’s leave it the way it is for now, and we’ll address the sing issue at a later date,” Mayor Tom Towey said.
In April 2004 an ad hoc sign committee was tasked with developing a more unified sign code after the city inherited its rules from Spokane County before incorporation in 2003. As now, there was plenty of pressure from businesses to allow everything from stately monument signs in front of pancake houses to jiving, jitterbugging inflatables advertising cheap haircuts.
But the committee recommended that county standards should be loosened in many areas, such as greater height for signs showcasing more than one business on a property and allowing businesses to use up to 25 percent of wall space for signage and reducing the minimum spacing between signs on a single property to 300 feet.
It also found that monument signs – imposed on Indiana Avenue in the area of the Spokane Valley Mall by county commissioners in 2001 – were largely ineffective for about a third of the year.
“They don’t make a lot of sense with all the snow we get,” said David Crosby, who was the chairman of the committee.
Monument signs had been the standard on the city’s “aesthetic corridors,” as designated by the commissioners. Those included eastbound Appleway Boulevard, Evergreen Road between Sprague and the Freeway, Indiana Avenue between Pines and Flora, and Mirabeau Parkway.
The council ultimately adopted new standards in 2005 in a move that its current makeup would likely agree with: “We want to be business-friendly,” said then Council Member Richard Munson.
The council agreed to let business signs that were OK under the old rules to be replaced if damaged even if they are technically not in compliance with the new law. And those dancing inflatables? Devotees now need to secure permits that are issued monthly.
After the council passed the SARP last year, sign types and where they are allowed are now identified in a regulations chart per zoning classification.
If the council does decide to tackle the sign code as a whole, former Council Member Mike Flanigan – who passed away in 2008 – had some final thoughts after the city passed the last version in 2005.
“There are some people in the community who won’t be happy with it,” he said. “Then again, they probably would be happy with anything we had.”