By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“I'm a trendsetter,” said owner Randy Wellman of the restaurant in the Sequim Village Shopping Center, 609 W. Washington St.
The reader-board-style sign, Wellman said, attracts more diners to his restaurant.
“When I put the sign out, my business increases,” he said. “It works wonders.”
However, under a newly implemented city ordinance, signs like the one put out by Wellman are banned outside the city's downtown core.
Wellman said he will likely pay the fine, though it was issued to his landlords in the Sequim Village Shopping Center, best known for its main tenant, J.C. Penney Co. Inc.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie, whose office is in the same shopping center as Tarcisio's, said City Hall is bound by court precedent that says cities only can govern if signs are allowed or not, not their content.
“It makes perfect sense that you have a sign out to promote a sale,” Ritchie said.
“Our difficulty is we can't be in the business of determining what somebody can say on their sign.”
The city can, Ritchie said, require that signs fit standards for safety and aesthetics.
“If everybody had 10 signs on the front of their spot in this mall, most people wouldn't even come in because it would be so crappy looking,” he said.
Wellman questioned how the rule could apply differently to different parts of the city.
Downtown businesses are allowed to post their specials on signs.
“Why is it on one block you can have a sign and on the next block it's a different rule?” Wellman asked. “It's asinine.”
Ritchie explained the ordinance allows for signs that advertise to pedestrians downtown, where the bulk of the business comes from people walking by.
Businesses outside of the city center are reliant on auto traffic for their customer base, Ritchie said.
Some business owners have posted people standing on sidewalks and by street curbs to wave signs with their specials.
That, Ritchie said, can distract drivers and present a safety hazard.
After receiving the fine for his temporary sign, Wellman posted another on the back of a flatbed truck.
He has since removed it because it, too, was deemed a temporary sign.
“What makes that any different than the 5th Avenue Furniture [a neighboring business] delivery trucks parked out front with their logos on them?” Wellman asked.
“If I'm getting a fine, their's shouldn't be out there, either.”
A new provision allowing the landlord to place a sign with a replaceable placard near the street also has been written into the ordinance.
Ritchie said the managers of the shopping center, Sun Valley Realty, have applied to the city for a permit to install such a sign.
Until then, Wellman said he will leave a sign posted in front of his restaurant, especially for his Valentine's Day specials this week.
“If they fine me again, that's what they do,” he said. “But I have 17 employees. I need to draw in enough business to keep them working.”
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.