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Last weekend, the Sedona Visual Artists’ Coalition held its annual Open Studios, inviting Sedona residents and visitors to get up close and personal with artists in their home studios.

We published SVAC’s press release in our April 26 edition of the Sedona Red Rock News. To help guests navigate to the 28 studios in Sedona, and two in Cornville, SVAC published a downloadable map on its website and distributed them around the city.

SVAC artists also placed directional signs along State Routes 89A and 179. As the weekend went on, several of the signs were removed from the roadway and taken to the city impound yard. I was bombarded with emails, phone calls and a few text messages from artists playing out a drama alleging the city intentionally removed the signs for one reason or another.

News Editor Christopher Fox Graham“For a city that wants to be known as a center for the arts, impounding signs that can guide visitors to this very interesting annual event seems like a short-sighted action,” Linda Schemer wrote.

“Way to go, making sure that tourists would never find their way to any of the studios. You win the anti-public relations award of the year,” Jessica Maring wrote. “Your behavior was anti-community, anti-arts, and tacky. Really, really tacky. Very poor judgment, displaying both lack of discretion and common sense.”

I also received emails from city council members attempting to find out what happened, then defending the city’s actions as mandated by law.

While some assumed this removal may have been malicious, the facts appear to be less sinister and far less dramatic.

The city of Sedona controls the city’s arterial roads and side streets — excluding private roads — but has no control over State Route 89A in West Sedona. That state road falls under the jurisdiction of the Arizona Department of Transportation.

ADOT’s right-of-way means signs must be at least 32 feet back from the curb. While this may make it less likely to see a sign, it is the law, and city workers who confiscated the signs were doing their jobs.

“Additionally the studio tour group did not apply for a sign permit with the city. If they had done so, they would have been allowed to place the signs in selected city right of ways,” Mayor Rob Adams said.

SVAC didn’t obtain the proper permits.

That being said, was impounding the signs the city’s only option? Couldn’t workers have moved the signs back 32 feet rather than haul them off to the city impound? Workers were there moving the signs into a truck anyway.

Slapping on a sticker that reads, “Pursuant to ADOT statutes, this sign was moved 32 feet from the curb. If this sign violates this statute again, it will be confiscated.”

All along state highways, these get placed on the windshields of broken down cars — and busted Buicks don’t create a sense of community nor bring in tax dollars like an art show does.

Yes, the artists failed to follow the law, but surely a more common sense approach to this issue would have kept the studios well-attended and prevented bad blood between local artists and “a city that is animated by the arts, and lives with a spirit of volunteerism.”

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  • really

    Moving the signs 32 feet from the ADOT right of way would probably have put most...if not all...of these signs on private property. City employees aren't going to do that. That's why they are confiscated. Almost every city has signage rules and Sedona is no different. Follow the rules and there isn't going to be a problem.

  • Scott

    With the city of Sedona (and its residents), if it's not one thing - it's another! Unfortunately, many people tend to jump to conclusions and accusations rather than taking the time and effort to seek the truth of the matter. One wonders if the apologies, should they emerge, will be as passionate as the rants and raves. A little knowledge and patience can go a long way to prevent future misunderstanding.

  • Glen

    So the city workers are doing ADOTs job? If the stste wants the signs removed, let stste workers remove the signs.

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