Sandwich boards

Aspen retailers that currently are allowed to use sandwich boards could continue for another year if the city council agrees to an extension at Monday night’s meeting.

City of Aspen staff will ask council members for more time to address signage regulations in downtown Aspen.

A moratorium on new permits for sandwich boards within the city’s core is set to expire Sept. 28. At tonight’s council meeting, officials will be asked to extend that moratorium for another year so that more input can be gained from the business community and the public before implementing permanent regulations.

The previous council configuration banned sandwich boards in August 2017 because a U.S. Supreme Court ruling no longer allowed towns to regulate sign codes based on a sign’s content. This included Aspen’s separate rules on signs for restaurants, retail and office use.

“They were all different and it was all content-based,” said Phillip Supino, principal long-range planner for the city of Aspen.

With no clear alternative in place for the small, out-of-the-way businesses that had been using sandwich boards to attract customers, the city council allowed those that already possessed sandwich-board permits to continue using them. Therefore, in addition to the extension of the moratorium on new permits, council members will be asked to extend the status quo for the businesses that are currently allowed to use sandwich boards.

“(The extension would) allow for another community conversation, and the presentation of additional regulatory options to the new council to identify a path moving forward for permitting, or not, sandwich-board signs in the commercial core,” Supino said.

There is concern that unregulated sandwich boards would lead to hundreds being placed throughout Aspen’s downtown walkways by businesses that are not allowed to advertise in this way, such as real estate companies.

Some store owners and managers say that ground-level signage helps attract business and is crucial in helping customers find their way. As city planners continue to work on creating new guidelines, they will have to balance two community concerns, according to the resolution presented for first reading tonight.

“The proposed policies and code amendments support and enhance community character by balancing community aesthetics with the value of commercial, civic, safety and wayfinding signage in appropriate quantities and locations,” the resolution states.

If council passes the extension, more community outreach will begin. Previously the city held open houses, put up an online forum and checked in with businesses located in the commercial core.

The one-year extension would maintain the moratorium on any new permits for sandwich boards while allowing those who already use them to continue to do so through Sept. 28, 2020.

Alycin Bektesh is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at Alycin@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @alycinwonder.