City approves changes to business signs rules

Carson City businesses will soon be allowed a few more options for advertising businesses with signs, balloons or costumed characters.

The Board of Supervisors approved adding items to the city's sign ordinance allowing owners to put bigger painted signs on windows during sales or holiday seasons, putting out unlimited balloons to fly and dancing hot dogs or any other creature to jump around the streets. Using costumed characters is currently prohibited.

Supervisors will need to vote on the changes one more time at their next meeting before the new rules will take effect. The maximum allowed size of freestanding signs, now at 300 square feet, for shopping centers will not change.

The changes are the result of business owners, city staff and others who went through the existing code to find ways to improve it, make it easier to enforce and help businesses bring in shoppers.

The Carson Area Chamber of Commerce interviewed local businesses in the past year to find out what they thought of doing business in the city.

"Forty-eight percent of the businesses interviewed thought the existing sign ordinance was a liability," said Larry Osborne, executive director of the chamber.

After a year of working through the ordinance, the business organization and the city felt it made better sense.

"We feel it's now a better sign ordinance, it's more understandable," Osborne said. "It's more enforceable. We believe it's a good document."

If a shopping center or casino wants to build a bigger sign, it will have to go through a special-use permit. Planning and Community Development Director Walt Sullivan said the planning commission will take a look at any proposed sign as it relates to the size of the center.

Supervisor Shelly Aldean said the maximum of 300 square feet for a sign was OK. The sign at Southgate Mall is "large" at 171 square feet, "so, 300 square foot maximum is plenty of area," Aldean said.

The sign ordinance committee was concerned about writing rules that could be enforced.

"There was a need to make things as clear as possible so everyone understands it," Sullivan said.

Some substantial changes to the sign code include:

-- Temporary window signs can be no larger than 25 percent of the window size.

-- Time limits for the use of pennants was deleted.

-- Balloons, used extensively by auto dealers, will be defined and regulated separately from "inflatable devices." The new language will allow balloons without a limitation in number or time limits, but limits heights.

-- Language was added to acknowledge that official flags are exempt from sign regulations.

-- Language added to allow corporate flags flown with an official flag.

-- The addition of portable signs, like ones carried by a person


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