History being made in Lacey

November 13th, 2014 by Ken

Lacey will make local history in the near future – – over its sign ordinance.

For more than three decades, Lacey has had the most restrictive sign ordinance in the state and maybe even in the country.

Next week the city will hold a public hearing on making changes to this onerous sign ordinance.

As a new city in the 1970’s, Lacey didn’t have a lot of things – – including a sign ordinance of any kind.   As it began its growth spurt, signs of all kinds popped up every where, creating clutter and confusion.   People began to question the need for some kind of control.

A Lacey councilmember and later city mayor, had spent some time in California and had seen communities with restrictive sign ordinances in response to that state’s rapid growth.   He thought he could transfer California to Lacey.

The ordinance as adopted by a complacent city council called for signs to be as innocuous and unobtrusive as possible.  No pole signs, no banners, flags or balloons, no oscillating  or rotating signs and no temporary signs.  Digital signs hadn’t been conceived yet and weren’t addressed.  No temporary signs like sandwich boards were allowed.   All business signs had to be flush mounted on the side of the building and were limited in space to the size of the building.

In other words, the city didn’t want any signs that could be seen by anyone driving along the city street.

Over the years the business community tried to fight the restrictions, but with almost no one of the council with any business experience, it was difficult to make the case for a more appropriate ordinance.

A two decade long effort on the part of the city to remove pole signs failed, when more than a dozen businesses failed to comply.   The city settled the matter by grandfathering them in.

One local business which wanted a digital sign, threatened a lawsuit if the city didn’t allow it, because the ordinance didn’t address this new technology.   The city complied, then added digital signs to its list of forbidden signs.

Businesses continued to complain, and when four business people were elected to the city council in the last four years, the city agreed to take another look at the ordinance and recommended some changes.

Tuesday, November 18, the Lacey Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on changes to the sign ordinance.

If you’re really interested, the complete draft ordinance is available on the city’s website.

But, it might be worth attending the meeting just to see history being made.

It starts at 7 p.m.

Posted in Business, Government, History, The Real News

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