Sandwich boards in Aspen, specifically City Hall’s enforcement of them, have been causing controversy for years, and now all businesses have to pay the price for having one.
Regulations on the advertisements have raised the hackles of many business owners, who have been on the receiving end of the city’s sometimes ill-conceived and ever-changing policies governing them. From all-out bans in certain areas, to ambiguity in the law, to unforgiving rules on size and placement, the city’s enforcement and compliance program has rubbed people the wrong way.
And this time around is no different.
Some businesses have been approached in recent days by the city’s compliance officer who’s been informing them that they’ll now have to pay an annual $65 permit fee for having a sandwich board.
It’s a mandate handed down by Aspen City Council, which passed a new law and instituted the fee last fall. It took effect on Jan. 1.
It’s designed to create a “level playing field,” according to city officials. The problem, they realized, was that businesses that placed temporary sandwich board signs for eight weeks a year were paying the fee and registering with the city, but those with permanent signs were not.
We suspect that the city also realized it was losing out on revenue to fuel its compliance program, which would further justify its existence and potentially fuel more complicated and convoluted regulations.
It’s understandable that the city wants every business to pay the same amount, and we suggest that it be zero. Retail operations and restaurants have a difficult enough time trying to pay the rent and the landlord’s building expenses without having to pay increasing costs levied by their government.
City officials are accused frequently of not being “business friendly,” and this annual tax is a perfect example. Why not simplify? We get it that there has to be regulations to keep things uniform but to keep changing the rules of the game is unfair.
Over the last several years, elected officials and community development staffers have tinkered with the city’s sign code numerous times. There has got to be better and more pressing issues facing this community than changing the sign code so much that it makes the heads spin of those affected. Different councils have changed, overhauled and repealed aspects of the ordinance, and we’re not convinced there’s a benefit to all that brain damage.
Seems like a waste of time and money to us.
Current council members have campaigned on their commitment to be more accommodating to local business, both start-ups and those who have been here for a long time. How is this repeated fee every year helpful to a business owner?
Regulation and enforcement of the sign ordinance ought to be considered a service provided by the government, funded through all of the other tax revenue it collects, just like filling potholes.
Businesses place sandwich boards on the city’s right-of-way and on private property in order to direct people into their stores and restaurants, particularly if they are not easy to find. While they’ve always been subject to city approval for their signs, enforcement has been spotty and there was no permit fee.
Some business representatives have expressed their displeasure with the annual fee, especially if nothing changes from year to year.
The city justifies the charge as a fee that compensates the government for the time it takes to process the sign information. A database is now being created that will eventually include every sandwich-board sign in town and its status; no such database currently exists.
Big brother is watching and if you’re a business owner, you get to pay for that tracking. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Aspen.