Belated enforcement of Orem signage ordinance ‘unfair’ to local businesses

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Orem citizens aren’t worrying about the signs of the times right now; instead, they’re worried about the city taking down signs used to promote their businesses.

City officials have announced they are now enforcing an ordinance which states signs not attached to buildings are illegal, among other things. The city is asking citizens to voluntarily comply.

Charlene McKay, community and neighborhood services manager for Orem, said the city is starting to enforce the ordinance as it is currently written. McKay said if residents want to challenge or change the ordinance, they can file for a change through the development services department.

“There are some valid reasons to make sure that we are considering appropriate public safety, such as clear vision areas,” McKay said. “While [signs] contribute to the aesthetic value of the city, we have to check the visual clutter to keep the city attractive.”

Additional provisions to the ordinance state signs must be parallel to the building. Another rule stipulates if a wall is painted, the painted sign cannot exceed 20 percent of the wall surface. Lastly, businesses that put signs on their glass cannot have the sign cover more than 50 percent of the glass surface.

Hans Andersen, recently elected to the Orem City Council, said he is a strong proponent of changing the ordinance and said the city should not start enforcing those laws without looking at the ordinance again.

“There are more illegal signs in the city than legal ones,” Andersen said. “I’ve been going around talking to people — about 40 business people who did not know their signs were illegal — whose signs have been up for four, five and seven years.”

Andersen said since the city has allowed these signs to stand for so long, it is unfair it is now trying to enforce the ordinance.

Mikle South, an Orem resident and BYU psychology professor, asked the council to consider balance in meeting the needs of local businesses while taking care to maintain as much order as possible.

“We are overwhelmed with media in our homes and everywhere we go,” South said. “I want to choose where I shop based on the quality of the store and not the size of their sign.”

Tyler Slade, general manger of Ken Garff Nissan in Orem, said in a council meeting that enforcing the current ordinance would be taking away from revenue as a result of the signs and lead to a loss of jobs at his company.

To emphasize his point, Slade said he could attribute 10 deals a month at each store from the signs, which in turn generates $230,000 in tax revenue for the city each year.

“The economics of this country is to create jobs,” Slade said. “Just in my own two stores, I would have to pink slip 7 people if we didn’t have the signs. Jobs for Americans should be more important than enforcing a sign ordinance.”

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