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Cortez cracks down on unconventional signs

Officials ask businesses to get sign permits
Stephanie Alderton/The Journal<br><br>A ground-mounted sign on Main Street, one of the types for which the city requires permits from business owners.

The city of Cortez is asking area business owners to get permits if they want to keep their more colorful outdoor signs.

Planning and building director Sam Proffer sent out a letter to several Cortez businesses on May 11, asking them to get permits for less conventional signs, such as banners and sidewalk-mounted signs.

The letter particularly emphasizes that vertical “feather” style banners require a permit. City planner Tracie Hughes said her department wants to avoid any potential hazard of having a sign mounted on a sidewalk, as well as any aesthetic problems caused by poorly maintained signs.

“It’s something that we’ve known has been getting kind of out of control, so it just seemed like the time to do something about it,” she said.

Businesses in Cortez, especially on Main Street, have been putting up more sidewalk signs and fabric banners in recent months, she said, and most have not applied for permits as required by the current land use code. The code doesn’t specifically prohibit such signs, but Section 5.06.f does say that “Ground signs shall not protrude over any public right-of-way,” which could be interpreted to include sidewalk-mounted signs, Hughes said.

The code also requires businesses to have a permit for any sign that doesn’t fit certain size and location criteria. Permits usually come with a fee of $40, which can go up depending on the sign’s size.

Hughes said there are several gaps in the current land use code regarding unusual signage. For example, it says nothing about the sidewalk chalkboards that are becoming more popular with some businesses. The next update to the code, which is still several months away from completion, will include more specific rules about different kinds of signs, she said.

Hughes said the recent letter was “a friendly reminder” to businesses that haven’t applied for sign permits, and that she doesn’t expect the city to level fines or any other penalties for non-permitted signs in the near future. But she did say the city might consider penalizing people who don’t respond within the next few months.

The letter doesn’t give a deadline for business owners to comply, but it does suggest there may be consequences for those who take too long to do so.

“Our office will be contacting individual property owners later this year for unpermitted signage,” Proffer wrote in the letter.

The city recently hired a full-time code enforcement officer, Chris Curry. Hughes said his appointment will allow the city to enforce some rules that have fallen by the wayside in recent years.

Find out more

To learn more about the city of Cortez’s policy on signs, go to www.cityofcortez.com and follow the “Land Use Code” link under the Planning and Zoning tab, or contact the planning and building department at 970-565-3402.

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