The city has received several complaints about the size of a political sign on top of the Hickory House restaurant endorsing mayoral candidate Derek Johnson, according to City Clerk Kathryn Koch.
The sign in question sits on the roof of the Hickory House, which is located on the north side of Main Street near the S-curves. Among the restrictions in the city’s code, signs cannot be larger than eight square feet. Johnson’s sign appears to be larger than the allowed size.
But officials don’t plan to do anything about it, despite City Hall’s fairly public campaign on making sure business owners comply with the complicated code that enforces sign rules, which Johnson, as a councilman, has been heavily involved in attempting to simplify.
Although the city code places strict limits on signage, the city community development department considers political advertisements exempt from the rules, said Chris Bendon, community development director.
“Our standard operating procedure is not to do anything about [political] signs,” Bendon said.
The city has not investigated how large Johnson’s sign is, according to Bendon. In general, politicians have a right to freedom of political speech, so they are allowed to post their signs, Bendon said. During election season, city officials try to stay out of the politics of signage, because campaigning can become contentious, he said.
“We don’t feel like trying to manage the sand box,” he said.
Johnson said he was not aware of the complaints about his sign. The sign is on private property and Johnson plans on taking it down immediately after the election.
“I have heard nothing but positive things about it,” Johnson said.
In general, there needs to be more flexibility in the city’s restrictions on signs to allow businesses to have more creativity in their advertisements, he said. During a candidate forum last week, Johnson cited re-working the sign code as one of his biggest accomplishments on council.
About three years ago, city staff re-wrote the sign code and since, they have realized there should be some amendments to simplify it, Bendon said. During last year’s retreat, council decided to make simplifying the sign code one of its long-term goals, he said.
“It was one of the goals [Johnson] was probably more passionate about because he’s probably one of the only council members who feels the impacts of the sign code,” Bendon said.
Johnson is the co-founder of the D&E ski and snowboard shop, which he sold to the Aspen Skiing Co. and now operates as Four Mountain Sports. He is currently the manager of rental and retail operations for the SkiCo.
Over the past year, the community development department has run ideas related to changing intricacies in the sign code by Johnson, Bendon said. The department picks Johnson’s brain on how he thinks the changes would impact business practices, Bendon said.
The department is working on a shorter draft of the code that will come before council for a final reading on May 28. The draft doesn’t change any of the sign allowances, but it simplifies the language used, Bendon said.
“It cleans up clumsy things that even we didn’t understand,” he said.
Political signs can be erected no earlier than 90 days before an election and they need to be removed seven days after, according to a 36-page document outlining the city’s sign restrictions.
Although the city doesn’t plan on enforcing sign restrictions during the election, there will be a “massive crackdown” on political signs that are left up after the fact, Bendon noted.