In response to some objectionable sign designs installed recently by businesses on Main Street, the Hailey Community Development Department is pushing for changes.

A city memo posted Monday stated that city staff are considering whether sign standards are “too loose,” allowing for signs that are “uncharacteristic of the charming, quaint town that Hailey is.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing Monday to consider changes to city code that would reduce sign sizes and restrict the use of cheaper materials. The changes would also prohibit freestanding signs and signs that are illuminated internally.

Both prohibitions were opposed by sign company owner Troy Larsen. He said many smaller freestanding signs are well-designed and important for business owners, and that illuminated signs can be tasteful, such as the one that advertises the Campion Ice House.

“We don’t promote bigger and brighter signs, just signs that communicate well,” Larsen said. “If you want high quality, you must encourage businesses to spend money.”

Larsen questioned recent comments by Mayor Fritz Haemmerle, who called for more neon signs. Larsen said lighted gas tube signs are expensive, toxic and “not green.”

“I don’t get it,” he said.

P&Z Commissioner Sam Linnet said he relies on a small freestanding sign at his law office in Hailey to attract clients.

“Without a freestanding sign, it would be hard to find our office,” Linnet said.

About two-dozen freestanding signs of all sizes already exist in Hailey. They stand alone, separate from buildings at McDonald’s, the Power House, Natural Grocers, Goode Motor/Ford and elsewhere.

City staff are pushing for a code change that would encourage the installation of small “blade signs,” which extend from buildings and are easily visible to pedestrians. Such signs are already in use at Davinci’s restaurant, the Wildflower retail store and elsewhere.

Hailey resident Carl Hjelm said he found a large, white freestanding sign at Sterling Urgent Care on Main Street to be objectionable.

“This is an example of what should not be built,” Hjelm said.

Community Development Director Lisa Horowitz said in an interview that the urgent-care sign meets city design criteria.

“Other than size and materials, there is a lot of subjectivity with regard to sign designs,” Horowitz said.

City staff were instructed to research sign codes in other cities, incorporate feedback from the public and the commission and report back with another draft of the code change on May 6.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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