City wants to further restrict sign ordinance

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In an attempt to apply a universal standard to private signage, the Austin City Council wants to prohibit all signs, except for those designated for traffic and city use, from public right-of-ways.

“You’ve got to be fair to everybody,” said 2nd Ward council member Dick Pacholl, who advocated the change during a work session meeting June 16.

The ordinance change would affect anyone who posts signs for personal use: real estate agents, rummage salers, auctioneers, performers and organizations.

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The ordinance currently permits all except for rummage salers to post signs on the right-of-ways. Residents hosting yard sales were pushed from the streets several years ago in efforts to preserve public safety, according to city administrator Jim Hurm, who said instead of allowing signs to cluster on street corners, the city designated two areas — the Skinner’s Hill parking lot on Second Drive and Ninth Place Southwest and an area 100 feet west of Fifth Avenue and Seventh Street Northeast — for yard sale signs.

Pacholl argued at a past meeting the result was unequal treatment of locals, and, with the support of the council, requested an amendment from city attorney David Hoversten to bring equality to the ordinance.

Hoversten said the only way to create an equal standard would be to prohibit signs altogether.

“The only way to be content neutral is to ban all signs from public right-of-ways except for those controlled by ordinance,” Hoversten said.

“It’s hard and simple,” he added.

Residents and businesses would instead have to ask private property owners for permission to place a sign on his or her lawn.

Council members will deliberate issue during their next council meeting.