Even though last month the Bainbridge City Council pleased Winslow Way merchants with the process it and the city took in updating an ordinance for the retail use of sidewalks for cafes and displays, the City Council is still keeping a close eye on the seemingly growing use of sandwich boards by island businesses.
At the July 21 meeting, council member Steve Bonkowski wanted to add an item under council discussion about sandwich boards since a number of people had made comments about the influx of sandwich boards and trees advertising a hospital on public land. Bonkowski said he would refrain from talking about the use of the trees for another time and would focus the discussion on sandwich boards.
“At least to me, there are a lot more (sandwich boards) than I ever envisioned possible,” Bonkowski said. “It’s almost as if we’re deforesting the island to make sandwich boards.”
Bonkowski said it appeared there were two different varieties of sandwich boards: ones that advertise to consumers to “come on in” and others that direct the locations of businesses.
City Manager Doug Schulze said that on July 21 that the city’s Code Compliance officer found 39 signs from Madison Avenue, along Winslow Way, to State Route 305 with two violations. On July 18, the Code Compliance officer found 43 signs and only two violations for multiple signs that were off-site.
Schulze said he’s aware businesses use sandwich boards also on High School Road.
During the recent economic downturn, Schulze said cities often gave businesses more latitude on sandwich boards for advertising. Schulze also used a PowerPoint presentation to show the City Council some examples of how cities, including Seattle, use uniform directional signs to direct people to businesses.
“It doesn’t look like it’s a matter of people not complying with the current ordinance, it looks like it’s just what the current ordinance allows,” Schulze said. “What I would suggest is we look at the (sign) ordinance, but at the same time that we’re working with the businesses so that we can find some solutions that can work with the businesses as well. Rather than just looking at eliminating the signage.”
Bonkowski then asked Schulze whether something could be done this summer to impact the issue.
“I think it would be pretty difficult to get something constructed and installed that quickly,” Schulze said. “But, I think, certainly for next summer, it’s a reasonable timeframe.”
Council member Wayne Roth noted there are city directories in the Bainbridge ferry terminal and Columbia Bank that are updated, already in place and providing solutions to the situation. Roth said he’s used them many times with tourists who needed help finding food and clothing locations.
“There’s always been – old Winslow Way/new Winslow Way – some sandwich boards somewhere,” Roth said. “But it is now that everyone has one out and ‘Now I need one, too, (philosophy)’ and it has gotten to be … hard to find a business without one.”
Schulze said he planned to have a discussion with the business community about sandwich boards in the near future and revisit the issue with the City Council possibly as early as September.
Any change in the city’s sign ordinance would require public hearings.