WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The Williams Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission approved the revised sign code at its March 20 meeting, despite some members of the public saying the proposed changes were too strict and two commissioners initially saying they weren't ready to decide on the matter.
Chairman Buck Williams and Commissioners Brad Massey, Harry Schmitz and Barbara Brutvan unanimously voted to forward the revised code to the City Council. Commissioners Josh Smiley, Gabe Ayala and Tony Robertson were absent.
The Historic Preservation Commission approved the revised code with some minor wording changes after a public hearing at its March 11 meeting.
The council will put on a public hearing about the sign code and may vote to adopt it tomorrow at 7 p.m. at 113 S. First St.
City Planner Harry Holmes started the meeting by telling the commission that the first two sections of the code, the purpose and definitions sections, were new. In response to a question from Schmitz, Holmes said city staff and the sign committee drafted the two sections using language from other jurisdictions.
Gary Hassen, who was at the meeting on behalf of Jeremy Hassen of Addicted to Route 66, said he didn't like that idea.
"Williams, Arizona is Williams, Arizona. It's not Scottsdale, Arizona, it's not Flagstaff, Arizona, it's not San Francisco, it's not Denver," he said. "I have kind of a problem taking regulations from other cities and applying them to Williams, because Williams is unique, and we don't want to be like other cities. We want to be Williams."
Holmes said the staff and sign committee tailored the language to fit the community, and Williams wasn't trying to be like other cities.
After a brief overview of the proposed changes to the code, the commission opened the meeting to public comments.
The majority of the remarks from the public centered around a change regarding window signs. The section reads: "Window signs are to be attached to the interior of the window and are not to exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the window area, and may not exceed the total allowable signage." The 25 percent in the proposed revision to the sign code was changed from 50 percent in the existing code.
Hassen said the window signage rule was an example of over-regulation in the proposed new code, and called some of the rules authoritarian.
"The interior space of a business is the property of that business owner, and the city has no damn business telling a business owner what you put inside the windows. I can understand all the areas outside, exterior parts," he said. "But the interior is a very sacred thing. The city isn't paying for that rent."
Williams said the regulation was necessary because windows are open to the public.
"All that's visible from the street needs to be something that is acceptable," he said.
Pettit added the guideline was in place for safety reasons.
"You're covering up a window that needs to be looked through in and out of," he said. "You've got the police department wanting to look inside of it."
Sandy Jensen with the Turquoise Tepee said she did not need the police to look in her windows because she has alarm systems. She added that allowing people to look into store windows could also be a safety issue.
"Now I think it's very important that we look at the freedom that we're talking about," she said. "I don't think that we need to encroach on something. I think we need to leave that freedom to do what we want to do in our building."
Patty Williams, who owns Williams Wear located in Canyon Vista Mall, was also concerned about the window signs in cases where several businesses share a window display.
John Holst of the Red Garter Bed and Bakery said the city needed to find balance with the sign code.
"We want to have recognition of our business but we also want our neighbors not to be blinding us or overrunning the character of the building with their own particular taste that may not be the same as everybody else's," he said. "So there's got to be control and every community has a certain amount of it."
After hearing from the public and city staff about the proposed changes to the sign code, the commissioners had mixed opinions.
"I think lot of work and a lot of good work has gone into this," Brutvan said. "I'm impressed."
Schmitz proposed that the P&Z reconvene for a study session to further discuss the sign code before making a recommendation.
City staff told the commission that the sign code was set to go before the council March 27. While a new meeting would require 24 hours of advance notice to the public, the existing meeting could be reopened at a later date.
Massey also said he was not comfortable voting on the plan that evening, saying the process should have started earlier.
"I feel that I get railroaded into making a decision without being informed," he said. "I have a lot of questions about this. I think this is over-written, and we've got half of the commission here..."
City Clerk Susan Kerley said the commissioners had had the proposed sign code for six weeks, and they had discussed at their last meeting that it would be coming for a vote at this meeting.
Williams said he would accept a motion for whatever the commissioners decided.
"If you would like to put your doubt into a motion feel free to do it," Williams said, adding that he would be willing to meet for a study session.
After some brief discussion about the possibility of scheduling another meeting, Massey moved to pass on the revised sign code to the council, including the changes the commission discussed. The motion passed with a unanimous vote.
After the meeting, Massey said he made the motion because the sign code had to move on to the council the following week.
"There was no way we could guarantee that we could have another meeting, and I didn't want to turn it down," he said. "These guys spent the time and I'll respect that. And the council has the final power, we just pass it on."