City News

Hey, what’s your sign?

Well, if it’s in Sedona, it best meet height, size, color and style regulations in order for it to be legal. But what it takes to meet those standards is in the process of being revised.

The city of Sedona is in the midst of updating its 20-year-old sign code. During recent Planning and Zoning as well as City Council meetings, the part of the code that has by far drawn the most discussion has been in regard to off-premises signs. Those are small signs directing people to such things as open houses, garage sales, art showings or special events.

A city report states that the need for an update has been discussed for quite some time, and was identified as a council priority several years ago. A few months into the update process, the project was put on hold due to a U.S. Supreme Court case involving how cities may regulate signs, Reed v. Town of Gilbert. Essentially, the court stated that a city cannot regulate signs based on the content of a sign but can regulate such things as location, height, material, lighting, size and function.

The city code states that the only off-premises signs that are allowed are for garage sales and real estate open houses. But due to the ruling, cities are now faced with an all-ornothing scenario when it comes to these types of signs. While this part of the sign code has received the most attention, the rest of the code is very lengthy and is also in the process of being updated.

City Council heard many of the recommended updates during its June 14, meeting. At its March 30 meeting, the Planning and Zoning recommended approval of the updated sign code by a 4-2 vote with the majority in favor of banning all off-premises signs.

Commissioner Gerhard Mayer and Larry Klein were the dissenting votes, stating their reason for opposition as being due to the prohibition of off-premises signs. The commissioners were unanimous on the remainder of the code.

No action was taken on June 14 and additional workshops are planned before council will vote on the matter.

“I’m hoping council agrees that this is something we need to take some time with,” Mayor Sandy Moriarty said. “We need to take our time and get this right. It is a difficult issue to deal with. It’s being kind of forced on us whether we want to do something or not. But, we have to.”

According to senior planner Cari Meyer, the proposed changes to the sign code can be broken into the following categories:

  • Content-neutral regulations
  • Design and sign quality standards
  • State Route 89A character district sign standards
  • Legibility and readability standards
  • General clarifications

Meyer said one of the most common comments the city receives in regard to signs is in relation to the quality of signs. Changes have been proposed to the master sign plan, which establishes the parameters of the size, number, location and design of all signs within a property or development site.

This ensures consistent signage throughout a single development and can provide a tool to address situations where strict application of the city’s sign regulations does not address site conditions, Meyer said.

Currently, master sign plans are only required for new development, do not give any ability to deviate from the standards and amendments are allowed as long as the new plan complies with the basic sign standards. This means that older shopping centers are not required to have master sign plans.

In addition, Meyer said existing developments with these plans can easily make changes that may deviate from the original intent of the sign plan to have consistent signage throughout a development.

In addition, this can limit creativity in sign design and does not allow a way to effectively address challenging sign situations for specific developments. Staff and planning and zoning are recommending to only require master sign plans for new development and redevelopment, and incentivize the creation of master sign plans for existing development.

Incentives could include reduced sign permit fees, expedited permit review, and greater flexibility in sign standards. Sign plans adopted for existing development and redevelopment projects would apply when a change is made to an existing sign or a new tenant moves in.


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