WEST JORDAN — Teenagers who may want to buy broad-tip markers or spray paint for a school project may have to go to another city to do so.
West Jordan city officials are considering a proposed graffiti ordinance that would prohibit businesses from selling to minors such materials that are frequently used to vandalize public property.
The Planning Commission recently approved the ban in an effort to address the growing graffiti problem in the city. The City Council, however, has the final say and opted to table the issue indefinitely Wednesday night.
The lone dissenter on the commission was Zachary Jacob, who contends the regulations would wrongly place the burden on businesses instead of the criminals who mark up the city.
The proposal would require businesses that sell "graffiti" implements such as paint, spray paint or broad-tip markers to buy a special license in addition to a regular business license. If the business sells a marker or paint to a minor, it would lose that special license and the ability to sell those products at all. Jacob said the proposal also contemplates forcing developers, not property owners, to clean up the graffiti and requires special landscaping to deter vandals.
If he was thinking of opening up an arts and crafts business, Jacob said, he'd set up shop in a neighboring city like South Jordan in order to avoid the potential regulations.
He believes that regulations like these, if adopted, should at the very least be implemented on a countywide basis because it would put West Jordan in an unfair economic position. He pointed out, too, that a similar effort to prohibit the sale of spray paint to minors failed at the Utah Legislature in 2012 because of similar concerns.
Jacob hasn't been quiet about his opposition. He wrote a letter to the editor and has used social media to broadcast his concerns. Others have joined him in criticizing the Planning Commission's recommendation.
“I think requiring business owners to treat magic markers like alcohol, tobacco and firearms is juvenile,” said resident Sherrin Pelton. “Making businesses record everyone who buys magic markers and spray paint is ludicrous and time-wasting.”
But West Jordan City Manager Rick Davis said the ordinance would have a minimal effect on commerce in the city.
“We tried to weigh what impacts it might have on business,” Davis said. “It wouldn’t affect your ability to stay in business. The point of the measure is to protect businesses (from vandalism) anyways.”
Davis recently suggested that the City Council nix one item in the ordinance that would require businesses to record all sales of graffiti materials or implements.
“I am recommending that tenet not continue forward in the final draft and I think the council also has a problem with it,” he said.
David Beck, owner of Beck Leather and Crafts in West Jordan, does not believe the regulation would have any effect on graffiti.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, (because teenagers) can just get it other places. They can go to the next city over or take it out of people’s houses,” Beck said.
But that doesn’t mean the council shouldn’t try, according to Davis.
“It’s like saying having speed limits don’t eliminate speeders,” he said. “It doesn’t, but it provides us a grounds for enforcement, and that’s what we’d like.”
While large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and New York City have instituted those type of bans, Jacob noted that West Jordan's graffiti problems aren't any more extensive than other communities in Salt Lake County — yet it would have the only outright ban for selling to minors.
"I don't think West Jordan is special when it comes to that. It is no worse than anywhere else," Jacob said.
He thinks the city is contemplating such a measure because of a January retreat among city leaders that emphasized cleaning up the city. He believes efforts would be better directed at improving landscaping in general, replacing storm-tattered trees and fixing sidewalks.
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