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Sunnyside sign ordinance in the works

Since the Sunnyside City Council put a moratorium on erecting new signs Jan. 24, city staff has been scrambling to come up with a proposed ordinance that will meet all of the needs of the community.

City Attorney Mark Kunkler, who has been serving as the city's planner while the position was being filled, updated planning commissioners on the progress of the sign ordinance Wednesday night.

With eight to 12 sample ordinances on his desk, Kunkler said there is much to sift through.

"Some sign ordinances are up to 40 pages, but I don't believe ours need to be that long," said Kunkler.

The goal is to develop something that meets Sunnyside's current and future needs. Kunkler said in come communities where sign ordinances have been put in place special considerations have been made for those businesses that have chosen to develop along a major corridor. He was unsure if that would be something that would meet Sunnyside's needs.

The moratorium puts a hold on new signs in Sunnyside for 90 days. The emergency measure came after a request for a new billboard was denied by the city. To prevent any new signs going up until an ordinance can be developed, the moratorium was put in place by the council.

He said the sign ordinance could go directly to the Sunnyside City Council, but a public hearing may be held at the planning commission level, and then the planning commission would make a recommendation to the council.

Planning on beating the 60-day timeline that a public hearing must be held before being adopted, Kunkler told members of the planning commission if they were to hold the public hearing, he would like to hold a meeting to discuss his sign ordinance findings by the end of the month.

"We're (city staff) trying to form the parameters of what we want," he said.

The new ordinance, which Kunkler believes will be adopted before the end of the moratorium, will address all signage in Sunnyside, not just billboards. He said the ordinance will cover on-site advertising, off-premise advertising, banners or temporary signs, and permanent signs.

One specific area city staff is looking at is whether businesses will be given a maximum square footage available for signage. He said that for small convenience stores that may be fine, but on larger stores the same sized sign would be lost and ineffective.

"We're looking for an upper limit of sign area available for each facility," said Kunkler.

This is not the first time the issue of a sign ordinance has been addressed by the Sunnyside City Council. The issue was raised five years ago by then Councilman Chad Werkhoven and again later when the council began looking at temporary signage and banners. Kunkler said both times the issue was discussed, but no ordinances were written.

With the moratorium in place Kunkler believes this time a sign ordinance will be adopted.

"Our plan is to have something developed and in place before the end of the 90 days," said Kunkler. "If not, there is an option to extend the moratorium."

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