The recent school board election in Cottonwood has the city wanting to change its political sign policy.
The Planning and Zoning Commission tabled a proposal to have city ordinance correspond with county codes. The proposal would increase the maximum size for election signs from 8 square feet to 32 square feet. County code also allows candidates to have signs up 90 days before an election, which the zoning commission felt was too long.
The current city ordinance requires that signs be removed "immediately thereafter." The commission talked of making that more specific.
During the recent election, the city received numerous calls about school board election signs. Community Development Director Jerry Owen said there were anonymous complaints from people with phony accents and other such "nonsense."
Because signs had to conform to one standard on one side of the road and another standard on the other in a situation like Fir Street, complaints and confusion hit City Hall.
"A ridiculous position for the city to be in is playing referee for a school board election," Owen said.
The city council directed staff to find a solution. "The idea was to get something uniform," Owen said.
Commission Chair Gerry Fortier said he was not impressed with what was proposed. The issue was tabled to give the city attorney an opportunity to decide the legal aspects of the changes.
"There is a hierarchy of needs and legalities here," Owen said. The 90 days allowed political signage in the county is part of constitutional freedom of speech but it was not known if the city could shorten that to 60 or 30 days without repercussions.
"But after an election there is freedom of speech issue," Commissioner Terry Fisher said. "We all agree that 90 days is too long."
"Ninety days is a long time to have to look at a sign," said John Bond, who is advocating one of the issues on the March ballot. "I didn’t know what ‘immediately’ meant either."
He said he told the people whose private property he will use to post signs that he will take down the signs the day after the election.
Commissioner Dottie Simonis said the 32-square-foot standard would make residential areas look like a commercial area. Owen said the size of signs has been self-limiting because of cost and city policy keeping signs out of the "vision triangle" for motorists.
Whatever changes are made in the city policy probably would not come into effect until after the March primary, according to Owen.