Workshop Helps Businesses Navigate New Sign Code


     It’s been a year since the Homer City Council passed a new set of restrictions governing business signs in the city limits. Now that business owners have had a chance to bone up on the new sign code, officials from the city planning department are conducting workshops to help them maximize their advertising efforts.

     Dotti Harness-Foster is a planning technician with the city. She’s the one primarily responsible for making sure local business owners follow the new sign code.

     She passes out a brochure, entitled “Homer Signs Simplified," which spells out some of the basics of the code – things like maximum sign height, wall frontage and the difference between a changeable copy sign and a temporary changeable copy sign.

     The dozen or so folks gathered at the lunchtime workshop each receive the brochure, along with a report on sign legibility form the United States Sign Council.

     A few folks – like Glacier Drive-In owner Nancy Smith – are still upset with the new sign code, which passed the Homer City Council last year after a long a sometimes contentious public discussion.

     "Why can't you come up with something that is uniform that we can all use?" asked Smith. "I have just been so upset over these sign ordinances. For years, we have fought it."

     There’s no doubt that the new sign code puts a bunch of new restrictions on Homer businesses, especially those clustered together on Pioneer Avenue downtown or on the Homer Spit.

     The popular sandwich board signs, for instance, are now heavily regulated and every business has a maximum allowable sign allowance that’s based on the size of their street-facing wall size. Balloons, pennants and promotional flags are out, as well, and all signs must be set back at least five feet from the lot line.

     Harness-Foster says no Homer business will be grandfathered in to the new code and all business owners will be expected to conform to the new rules this year.

     But most of the business owners at the workshop – and Harness-Foster herself – are focused on moving on and figuring out how to make the code work for everyone.

     For Homer Spit businesses concerned that they won’t be able to use their sidewalk sandwich board signs anymore, Harness suggests perhaps cooperating with neighboring businesses to maximize sign space. Also, she says, an upgraded sign for a special deal or event could help draw attention.

     "The fresh new signs are the ones that are effective," said Harness-Foster. "The newness is powerful so ... reserving it for a special or an event ... you're going to get more results form that."

     Harness-Foster has collected photos of signs – the good and the bad – from towns across the country and the world. She does not like one from Lake Tahoe that holds a dozen or more signs on one standing pole but she is a huge fan of using art as a way to advertise a business. 

     A local example of using art as advertisement is the ornamental cup sculptures that adorn the outside of Café Cups in downtown Homer, says Harness-Foster. And the best part is that such art does not qualify as a sign at all under city code.

     Harness-Foster says she will be conducting her sign workshop a few more times later in the year and she urges any Homer business owners with questions about the sign code to contact her at city hall.