By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Complaint driven process used to enforce sign violations
Question. What do these three Ceres scenarios have in common?

• A cluster of A-frame signs stakes out a section of landscaping area on Hatch Road.

• A rack display of tires is set up at the corner of Mitchell Road and Dale Avenue.

• Human sign flippers abound just about anywhere in commercial districts any time of day.

Answer: They're technically illegal but rarely enforced - unless someone complains.

The city's Sign Ordinance is typically only enforced on a complaint driven basis. Such was the case recently when the city asked Allied Cash Advance to remove its mannequin sign holder on Hatch Road. Senior Planner Tom Westbrook said the city finds the complaint driven enforcement process necessary since budget shortfalls resulted in the layoff of one code enforcement officer.

"We have 50 percent of the resources we once did," said Westbrook.

However, the city may be looking at relaxing sign standards for A frame signs in the spirit of "trying to become business friendly," noted Westbrook. Approximately eight years ago, in response to Chamber of Commerce requests, planning commissioners directed then Planning Director Randy Hatch to change the law to permit A-frame signs. Hatch left the city and the changes fell through the cracks, said Westbrook, as more pressing city business moved in.

Cities typically adopt sign ordinances for the sake of aesthetics and to create a level playing field for all businesses through a comprehensive set of rules. Additionally, illegal signs reduce traffic safety by obscuring vision and distracting drivers.

The City Council is scheduled on Aug. 27 to hold a public hearing about further regulating political campaign signs. Westbrook said that the city received complaints about larger signs that appeared on public right of way which obstructed the view of the driving public.

"In locations near a corner if you have a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood that can affect the visibility of the motoring public," said Westbrook.

The city Sign Ordinance forbids business signs within the public right of way, including those on street trees, utility poles, street signals, street lights, street name signs, traffic signs or sidewalks, except official signs or other signs specifically permitted by the ordinance. Other examples of illegal signs are ones that move, swing, rotate, except barber poles, clocks or thermometers. Windblown devices and signs whose movement is designed to attract attention, such as pennants, flags, inflatable signs or balloons, inflatable animals or similar signs, or reflective attachments to sign faces, are prohibited with the exception of those specifically permitted, including car lots.

A-frame signs, except for real estate signs, are not allowed but are commonly seen around Ceres. The same is true of other portable or freestanding signs not permanently affixed, anchored or secured to the ground or structure on the lot they occupy.

The city does make a provision for temporary signs advertising a special event, such as grand openings and going out of business sales.

In some cases, a business may violate the sign ordinance for overdoing signs. Such as was the case of a complaint lodged against a Third Street video store. A complaint was filed because signs were attached to a car parked in front and on a city sign post. The front of the business was plastered with signs, covering more than the 25 percent of the window space on the business facade.

While entertaining to watch, businesses are breaking the law to pay employees, mostly energetic teens, to stand on the sidewalk or in a parking lot to hold or flip signs.

Perhaps violating the city Sign Ordinance more than the business community are private individuals who post yard sale or garage sale signs on poles or vehicles. Westbrook said said it's illegal for persons to post garage or yard sale signs at any other location than where the sale is.

"The code says that you can have a sign at your house," said Westbrook. "It doesn't say you can have one at the street corner on a telephone pole."

Occasionally the signs are removed by code enforcement officers who also use the illegally posted signs to track down those who have no yard sale permit since those who get permits are told that signs are a no-no.