Vail’s businesses seek consistent sign code
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs. But soon there will be some minor tweaking to the current Vail sign code, resulting in new regulations. Long a contentious topic in Vail, the sign code which also regulates outdoor displays has had many versions over the years.From the beginning, Vail has banned things like billboards, most banners and sale signs and use of public property for displays. In the past, there were vague sign codes with fines of up to $75 per day. Those regulations were refined but still left the community with unclear expectations and the code-enforcement division of the town with an enforcement nightmare.Business owners have become increasingly frustrated with the unclear direction they receive from the town and advice they may hear from fellow business owners. The result has led to a lax system of sign-code enforcement in Vail. In 2006, a survey targeting sign-code regulations in Vail was distributed to all business owners.The response was unanimous: There needs to be more clarity. Currently, Vail town officials and the Vail Chamber & Business Association are working to pass a new set of regulations voicing the needs of all parties. The town strives to maintain its European feel and pleasant aesthetics, and local business owners strive for a unified representation in line with the towns regulations. Strolling down Bridge Street or Meadow Drive, you can spot a white board or a chalk board or even a clothes rack advertising a special or sale inside. The fact is that, in most cases, these things are not in compliance with the present sign code. This will be the issue at hand during the chambers monthly membership meeting Aug. 14, as well as the Vail Planning and Environment Council meeting Aug. 27. There always have been regulations, but there has never been a strong enough system recognized or enforced to provide business owners with the correct information. More importantly, there has never been a consensus as to what constitutes fair and reasonable business practices. While it will be impossible to meet all of the expectations and special considerations of the wide variety of business interests in Vail, it is important that the business community come to some basic agreement with the town about what the new regulations will look like.In the best of both worlds, the town and the business owners will be in communication and subsequent agreement about their priorities on what should be allowed in any new proposal. The result will hopefully produce a document that will be fair, easy to understand and enforceable.The reason for this column is to prepare those interested in this issue for the meeting Aug. 14, from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Vail Town Council Chambers. Rachel Friede, a Vail town planner, will lead a discussion on the proposed changes to the sign code. This meeting will be open to the public, and your input is strongly suggested. Recommendations then will be passed on to the planning commission, which will pass its proposal on to the town council for final approval. The goal of the chamber has been to have a new sign code in place by this fall so there is plenty of time for businesses to become compliant for the 2007-08 season.This is your opportunity to have a voice in shaping the future of regulations that will affect how you do business in the town of Vail.Lourdes Ferzacca is president of the Vail Chamber & Business Association Board of Directors.
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