Take a gander down University Avenue from 920 South to the I-15 interchange.Notice any dissimilarity between the two sides of the road lined with fast-food restaurants, motels and stores? Members of a city committee proposing to revamp Provo's sign ordinance do.
"If you look down that street you can see a definite difference," said committee member Greg Soter, owner of a Provo ad agency.
The signs on the west side of the city's main thoroughfare are taller than the ones on the east side, and, according to the committee, more unsightly.
Limiting freestanding signs to 20 feet in height is one of myriad changes the seven-person committee, including two City Council members, proposes in a draft ordinance currently under review. The new law, patterned after one in Sandy, aims to reduce the number of signs businesses are allowed, standardize signage citywide and establish stricter enforcement.
"The purpose is to clean up Provo, Utah, and make it as beautiful a place as it can be," said Marian Johnson, one of two residents on the committee. The other resident and impetus for the proposed revisions, Mary Ann Andrus, recently moved to Russia.
Committee members say the hodgepodge of signs detract from Provo's aestheticism.
"We just let it go helter-skelter," Johnson said. "I think it's just a lack of planning."
Both Johnson and Soter point to Orem's cluttered State Street with its jumble of placards and billboards as a sight they don't want in Provo.
Sign regulations in the city vary depending on the building zone in which businesses are, said Jim Bryan, a city planner who advises the committee. Some areas are tightly regulated while others are not. That's why the heights of signs differ from one side of the street to the other on University Avenue in the East Bay area.
Johnson would just as soon see no pole signs at all.
Soter won't go that far. But he'd like to eliminate the one-upmanship that sometimes occurs between neighboring or competing enterprises. Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better.
"If people design signs with attractiveness in mind, they would not have to make them big," he said.
Soter said he understands property owners' rights, but there must be some ground rules to ensure signs communicate messages without overwhelming people. Much can be done to improve the looks of the city without infringing on businesses' ability to advertise.
"I think it would be a mistake to say this ordinance is more restrictive," he said.
If the council were to approve the new ordinance, some signs would automatically become "nonconforming," meaning they would be out of compliance with the law. Bryan said one of the key issues in future debates will be the time frame for removing those signs. Will it be when the business changes ownership? When the owner wants to replace the sign? When the wind blows it down?
The proposed ordinance has been rewritten eight times since the committee started meeting more than a year ago. The Provo Planning Commission has studied it twice, and Bryan said the panel will likely review the 20-page proposal a couple more times before it reaches the council sometime this summer.