Signs of the times

By Rebecca Carr | Mar 31, 2010

Mukilteo staff, councilmembers and planning commissioners have a difficult task ahead: overhauling the city’s complex sign code to comply with state law as related to recent court rulings, and at the same time both remain business friendly and not allow unsightly clutter to detract from the beautiful views.

A daunting mission to be sure – Mukilteans have strong and often conflicting opinions on many issues affecting our city, and this one is no different.

We find this one challenging as well, and don’t envy those who have to make it work for everyone. As residents who live in Mukilteo, we take pride in how our city looks, and let’s face it, those hand-lettered signs promoting everything from get rich quick schemes to dating services are ugly and potential driver distractions.

But we also support the local business community and want Mukilteo to be a thriving city that’s commerce-friendly.

One proposal most Mukilteans can get on board with is prohibiting signs advertising goods and services for businesses that don’t have a physical address within the city limits. Tempting and professionally presented as these outfits and their services are, folks hoping to earn $30,000 monthly without lifting a finger, or hoping to meet the person of their dreams over lattes at Lighthouse Park, will have to troll Highway 99 and other thoroughfares for such golden opportunities.

Not only do these crudely lettered signs clutter up the right of way; they can potentially distract drivers and they make it harder to notice the advertising of legitimate, Mukilteo-based businesses.

We’re pleased with the direction this is going so far, and we strongly encourage the public – whether residents, business owners or both – to attend the public hearings (check the Beacon for announcements and council and commission agendas) and offer your feedback. If you can’t make it to a public hearing, send your written testimony to the planning department and it will become part of the permanent record.

We would really like to see some teeth in the enforcement process once the new code is in place. Without repercussions, preferably financial ones, many will continue to disregard the law. (Right now the city is not enforcing the code because parts of it are out of compliance with state law.)

Those countless hours of researching state law and similar legal battles around the state, strengthening our regulations and spelling them out clearly are all for naught if we can’t or won’t enforce them.

We’d like to see a three strikes law implemented, with increasing penalties for each offense. First offense, pick up your recently confiscated, noncompliant sign from City Hall without paying a fine, perhaps signing a copy of the code and agreeing to obey the law.

Second offense could carry with it a nominal fine that must be paid before picking up the noncompliant sign.

Third strike? A significantly larger fine and that noncompliant sign will be destroyed.

Sound tough? Yes, but that’s the best way to ensure compliance. 

Unfortunately, we have less control over those ubiquitous political signs so many dread seeing during election season – our Constitutional right to freedom of speech prohibits much regulation. However, we would like to see some laws – at the state level if necessary – limiting them to just a few months before the election, and stiff fines for each one found more than seven days after. 

While most of our local politicians are fairly savvy about not being invasive with their signage, some for our representatives in Washington, D.C. went up in February. We’re fairly certain the visual blight those create – especially those that obstruct the water views on the west side of SR 525 – loses at least as many potential voters as it gains.





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