Aspen council seeks input on signs |

Aspen council seeks input on signs

Michael Appelgate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – After two hours of discussing a topic that Mayor Mick Ireland described in the end as “something so trivial but something which people get excited about,” the City Council reaffirmed many of the current land-use codes, called for a change in one and asked for more discussion on others regarding business signs in Aspen.

Chris Bendon, community development director, along with Jim Pomeroy, code enforcement officer, and Sara Nadolny, planner technician, came before the City Council on Tuesday evening asking for more guidance on how to regulate the many forms of signs in Aspen. The need for this meeting, as Bendon told the council at the start, came from recent conflict between Bendon’s staff and business owners who were in violation of the codes.

“Enforcement isn’t easy, and we are learning the hard way,” Bendon said. “We are learning that we need to be more sensitive to different situations that businesses are in and being more discreet with enforcement.”

Bendon proceeded to lay out six different issues that him and his staff have come across with the current code. The council advised the group to acquire more data on issues regarding: signage allotments for spaces with multiple tenants; advertisements that cover an entire window; signs such as that for the Molly Gibson Lodge, which uses LED lights to light up at night; and real estate signs.

In regard to the issue of a single space supporting multiple tenants, councilmen Steve Skadron and Torre both advised Bendon to look at other municipalities such as and Jackson, Wyo., and Breckenridge, which they both say have excellent downtown signage.

As for the window advertisements, Ireland suggested that they hold off on deciding anything regarding the graphics because he has not received complaints about them.

Illuminated signs drew a strong opinion from Ireland.

“At some point, we have to address excessive lighting,” Ireland said. “Especially after hours. There’s just no reason to be doing that from 2 in the morning until 6. It’s craziness to be walking down the street and have it all be lit up. It really detracts from a lot of things.”

Bendon said that he has received many positive responses from how the Molly Gibson Lodge designed its illuminated sign. What Ireland and Councilman Adam Frisch stressed most was that they do not want the façade of the city to be illuminated at all times in the night.

“This looks cool, but to have 600 of them downtown is too much,” Ireland said. “The issue for me is the look and feel of being in a rural town, and to have that on after hours to me is unnecessary.”

After deliberation of what the lighted signs could become, the council suggested that the group come back to the council with suggestions on how bright the lights should be and gauge the interest among the retail community in illuminated signs such as the one at Molly Gibson Lodge.

One thing the council decided needed to change was the sandwich-board signing zones. Bendon directly addressed an issue in July that involved the owner of Sabra’s Deli in the North Mill Station. Owner Daniel Ferguson, who was in attendance during the meeting, set up a sign directing people to his business. Due to the zone being a mix of neighborhood/commercial and service/commercial/industrial, he was not allowed to use a sandwich board because they are only allowed in the commercial core.

The council agreed that the signs should be allowed in those zones in accordance with the same rules in the commercial-core zone.

Also, the council agreed that anything representing a neon light sign, such as ones that use LED lights instead of neon, will be included under the code banning the use of neon signs.

Near the end of Bendon’s presentation, various business owners came before the council to express their confusion and general frustration about all the land-use codes of Aspen.

Ireland admitted that all the codes are confusing and suggested the development of more online resources to help new business owners. Bendon suggested a more hands-on approach.

“New businesses come in to town, and they sort of learn the hard way,” Bendon said. “Our thoughts are that maybe a new business starter kit that hopefully allows someone to lead themselves through the process, or a person who can assist new businesses with all those code compliances.”

Apart from the retail signage downtown, real estate signage also was addressed but was given a positive outlook. The council agreed that the signs should not get too large or be so prolific in neighborhoods.

Representatives from the Aspen Board of Realtors were present and said that they have met about the sign sizes they use and have agreed to stay in compliance with the city code and will be in further discussion to possibly shrink the size of their signs.

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