With a focus on helping local businesses in tough economic times, the Oro Valley Town Council voted unanimously on Sept. 21 to allow outdoor displays and A-frame signs.
Outdoor displays will allow local storeowners to put merchandise outside. A-frames are signs that can be placed outside a business to generate walk-in traffic.
The council voted to allow the two programs to move forward through Feb. 1, 2013, which will include two holiday seasons. At that time, the council will review the issue.
The outdoor displays will no longer require a permit fee. A-frames must be professionally done, and business owners must pay an annual $50 permit fee to the town.
Councilman Joe Hornat recommended that both the A-frames and the outdoor displays require business owners to submit a permit request for tracking purposes, and to require them to sign a statement saying they will comply with set codes and regulations.
Dave Perry, president of the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce, said the changes are needed. Perry called for the council to look at making temporary changes for at least one year.
The chamber president said, in the end, an empty storefront is a bigger eyesore than an A-frame or sidewalk merchandise sitting outside promoting an open business.
Longtime resident Bill Adler said the council must, “respond to economic conditions, and not code conditions.”
In a brief presentation, David Williams, the planning division manager, said the A-frame signs were allowed in a temporary program last year, which allowed businesses to use the sign to promote special events.
Several business owners attended the meeting, asking the council to ease up on restrictions placed on businesses, especially when it comes to A-frames.
Tony Johnson, of California Design, said he saw a 14-percent increase in business when the town allowed A-frame signs for a short period last year.
Micah Salminen, general manager of Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen, said because they are a specialty restaurant, most people do not know they exist. With an A-frame in the parking lot, Salminen said business increases for the restaurant, which specializes in serving gluten-free meals.
Several business owners said they had stores that are hard to find, or do not show street numbers because they are in shopping centers; A-frame signs assist prospective customers trying to find them.
To end the public discussion, Vice Mayor Mary Snider read a letter on behalf of Paul Evans, of the Keg Steakhouse and Bar, who was unable to attend in person.
Evans stressed that A-frame signs help let potential customers know that the dining room is open, especially on Fridays during happy hour when the parking lot is full, yet tables are still available.
In discussing the issues, Mayor Satish Hiremath said businesses are a vital part of the community.
“Either we commit to supporting businesses, or we don’t commit to supporting businesses and we find another revenue source,” he said.
Several business owners, including John Piccoli, of Ace Hardware, told the council Oro Valley has earned a reputation for being “business unfriendly,” and approving outside merchandise and A-frame signs without a strenuous approval process would go a long way toward changing that image.