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Sign fees irk business owners

Mary A. Castillo

Business owners were rattled when they received notices from the

city that required them to apply for a sign permit and pay fees

between $30 and $185 for their existing signs.

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Latitude 33 owner Tom Ahern and Ken Delano, the incoming president

of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, met with city officials to

remedy what they said could be a costly and time-consuming exercise

for local businesses.

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“Some people have had signs for 10, 20 and even 40 years,” Ahern

said. “They should just be granted a sign permit as long as they’re

in compliance.”

City Manager Ken Frank acknowledged that the original notice did

require an across-the-board application process.

After reviewing concerns, the city decided that owners with

existing signs that are in compliance with the code and who submit an

application on deadline, can receive a permit without paying a fee.

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The City Council passed the sign ordinance in September. It went

into effect Oct. 18. The new ordinance places restrictions for

internal neon signs and encourages businesses to create artistic and

representational signs.

The city also agreed to a one-year trial run that will test

administrative or “over-the-counter” approval process.

Ahern, who headed a chamber task force that included Len

Weinstein, Cindy Obrand and Kathleen Spalione, feels that the new

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ordinance levels the playing field among businesses that compete for

shopper’s dollars.

However, he was displeased with the way the city initially

notified local businesses about the implementation of the ordinance.

“When the city sent [the notification] out, the chamber had

provided the illustrated guide to the Laguna Beach city sign

ordinance,” he said. “Instead of sending that out with the

application, they sent a letter that lacked diplomatic tact.”

However, for George Nelson of Fawn Memories, the process was very

simple.

“Everything complied,” he said. “We only had one item that was

nonconforming, and in my case, I just took the sign down.”

Information, call Louis Kirk at (949) 497-0301 and Mariann

McNaughton at (949) 497-0322.


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