Aspen will not enforce illegal sandwich board signs
October 3, 2018
The city of Aspen plans to look the other way when it comes to rogue sandwich boards placed throughout town.
When Aspen City Council voted Sept. 24 to keep the status quo and not act on its decision from 2017 to eliminate all of the signs until September 2019, the Community Development Department asked how elected officials wanted enforcement to occur.
Council members agreed to let city zoning enforcement officer Jim Pomeroy ignore business owners who put up a sign without a permit.
But they couldn't get a permit even if they wanted to, because the city isn't issuing any while the law remains in limbo.
The council is between a rock and a hard place because it is trying to honor the wishes of business owners who rely on their signs to drive foot traffic but also comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The 2015 Reed v. The Town of Gilbert decision renders most regulations in the country unconstitutional and forces municipalities to regulate in ways that are not focused on what a sign says.
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Concerned that there would be a proliferation of signs and businesses renting out their sandwich boards to large companies for advertising as a result of the high court's ruling, city officials recommended the council enact further regulations.
That led to the majority of council voting in August 2017 to have all sandwich boards eliminated in an attempt to preserve community aesthetics.
But the council also delayed enforcement of that until Sept. 28, and it voted last month to delay enforcement until September 2019.
So those who had permits on or before Sept. 24, 2017, are grandfathered in, but those who aren't don't need to be concerned since city officials have been directed to not distinguish between the two.
Phillip Supino, a long-range planner with the city, said because of the lack of legal clarity due to extending the sunset period, it's better to be vague on the issue.
"The city's enforcement practices will continue to be complaint-driven," he said last week.
Supino said there were 60 signs on the permit list in 2017 and, in general, there are fewer than that displayed at any given time.
Pomeroy said there are about 14 signs he's seen on the street or pedestrian mall that are not permitted, and he reported that there have not been a lot of complaints.
He added that leaving enforcement on a complaint basis is the most fair and also in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
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