Feather signs still fly despite downtown ban

Staff writerAugust 2, 2013 

A feather sign flies near the Brown & Haley factory Thursday, the first day Tacoma's ban on feather signs downtown went into effect. City officials say they want to reach out to business owners to make sure they know about the regulations before issuing violation notices.

MELISSA SANTOS — Staff writer Buy Photo

Two feather signs continued to billow outside the Brown & Haley store in Tacoma’s Dome District on Friday despite the city’s new ban on the flag-like advertisements.

Tacoma’s new policy prohibiting the fluttering sidewalk signs downtown took effect Thursday. But the feather signs that point out where passersby can buy Brown & Haley’s signature Almond Roca candy aren’t going anywhere just yet.

Following objections from Brown & Haley and other downtown merchants, city officials are waiting a while before they cite businesses for using the now-prohibited signs, said Lisa Wojtanowicz, a division manager in Tacoma’s neighborhood and community services department.

“Our goal would be to touch base with the businesses, let them know about the new regulations and give them time to remove them,” Wojtanowicz said Thursday. “And then, if necessary, follow up with enforcement actions.”

That outreach process could last for the next 30 days or so, Wojtanowicz said.

Sometime after that, the city will start citing violators, who will have the option of removing the signs or appealing the city’s notice of violation, Wojtanowicz said.

If businesses choose to do neither, those with offending signage could be hit with a $250-a-day fine, she said.

A feather sign is freestanding and portable, and generally resembles a vertical flag attached to a pole. The city has banned the signs in an area stretching roughly from Interstate 5 in the south to Division Avenue in the north. The prohibition extends approximately from Yakima Avenue in the west to the Thea Foss Waterway in the east.

The Tacoma City Council approved the ban on feather signs downtown in June, with some council members saying that the signs cater to automobile traffic and don’t belong in a pedestrian-oriented downtown.

Feather signs are still allowed in other mixed-use and commercial areas of the city, including the area around the Tacoma Mall.

Brown & Haley installed two feather signs outside its factory store on East 26th Street in January. The store’s sales have since increased by 23 percent, said David Armstrong, the company’s senior vice president of operations and logistics, in a July 18 letter addressed to the Tacoma city manager.

Armstrong said it was “unfortunate” that city officials “didn’t contact the anchor of the Dome District and discuss the potential impact that this law will have on our retail business.”

“We’ve had customers on a daily basis inform us that without the banners in front of our store, they never knew our store was at this location.” Armstrong wrote. “We’ve set all-time sales records in four out of five months since the banners went up.”

City officials plan to work with local business groups — including the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and the Downtown Merchants Group — to see if there is “a consensus to revise the adopted feather sign regulations,” according to a July 24 memorandum from Peter Huffman, Tacoma’s interim director of planning and development services.

If the city starts fining violators of the feather-sign ban, Brown & Haley would try to leave up its signs for a while and pay the fines, in hopes of sending a message to the city, Armstrong said Friday. Eventually, however, the cost would become too much and the company would have to take the signs down, he said.

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209

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