Vol. 15 Issue No. 6 | February 11 – February 17, 2009

Carefree merchants need more visibility

By Curtis Riggs | February 11, 2009

Open house on sign rules on Feb. 23

CAREFREE – Merchants and business owners made an impassioned plea to the Carefree Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday to relax the rules on sandwich board and banner signs during the current challenging economic times.

“It works. It kept me alive this summer,” Creative U owner Kathy Doherty said of the banner “Anniversary Sale” sign she has had up at her Carefree Studios business since summer. “I kept the sign up and people kept coming in.”

Permits are not required for banner signs in Carefree and there is no fee for them. Carefree Planning Director Gary Neiss indicated this has led to the large number of them cropping up throughout the community.

The town will host an open house to further discuss banner and sandwich board signs at 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 23. Real estate signs will also be discussed at the open house.

Charlie Garrison, owner of the Bad Donkey sub shop at the southwest corner of Tom Darlington and Cave Creek Road, pleaded with the commission for, “anything so we can buy some time and weather the storm.”

Dan Nixon, a representative of Houston-based Whitestone and Reed, which owns the Sierra Norte business complex at the southwest corner of Pima and Cave Creek Road, asked for the relaxation of the rules on banner and sandwich board signs outside the downtown Carefree business district.

“We don’t get the benefit of being in the town core,” he said. “We pray to have the zoning ordinance relaxed for non-town core businesses.”

Carefree – Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ian Ellison requested a “moratorium” on the sign rules, pointing out business at some Carefree establishments is now down 40 percent.

“Business owners need every tool possible they can get their hands on,” he said.
Several of the merchants seemed pleased the present rules on banner signs in Carefree allow them to be up for 10 straight days. They are then required to be taken down for a day. Nothing in the rules prohibit them from being up for another 10 days.

After the meeting, Neiss indicated the rules on the two types of signs becomes a balancing act between better advertising, which works for the businesses, and the “aesthetic” problems for the rest of the community if they are allowed to proliferate.

Cave Creek allows banner signs, which must be no larger than 32 square feet, to advertise community events. They can go up two weeks prior to an event, but must be taken down three days after the event. A permit is required and there is a $50 fee.

Carefree Assistant Planner Brian Craig told the commission about a “drop dead” rule governing sandwich board signs in Fountain Hills, which will allow town officials there to revisit the rules after two years and possibly abolish the signs.

In Cave Creek, one two by three foot sandwich board sign is allowed per property. A permit is required and there is a $50 fee.

Sandwich board signs are not mentioned in the Carefree Zoning Ordinance.

Howard Bertram, of Bertram Graphics located at Carefree Studios, talked about the need for sandwich board signs because Carefree prohibits directory signs in front of the complex where his business is located.

Melissa Price, of the Sassy Salon studio on Easy Street, asked to be able to use the sandwich boards during Thunderbird Art shows so clients can find parking near her shop.

Photos by Curtis Riggs: Banner and sandwich board signs in Carefree will be discussed at a town-sponsored community open house at 5 p.m. on Feb. 23.