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Sign decision draws vocal protest
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Sunday, 15 March 2009 12:33

It took two years to craft a town ordinance about where A-frame, or sandwich board, signs are allowed in town limits. It took two weeks to draw a firestorm of criticism from local business owners opposed to the new rules.

The Camp Verde Town Council will revisit a discussion about the controversial signs at its Wednesday, March 4, meeting, said Mayor Tony Gioia.

The council passed new rules in January that limited the areas that could display the signs to businesses that have a door facing Main Street. It was originally conceived as a temporary measure to allow businesses suffering in a poor economy a way to draw in customers until things improved, and the town could provide more permanent signs.

But the new rule, which limited signs to certain businesses on Main Street, drew immediate protest from merchants like Donna Stilwell, owner of D&N Tire, a business located off of Main Street. Stilwell spent last week standing by her A-frame sign on Main Street holding protest signs decrying the Town Council’s decision.

Stilwell’s protest vigil was lent support by a phalanx of downtown merchants who filed into last week’s Town Council meeting to express displeasure with the new rules.

Several people argued that it wasn’t fair to prevent struggling businesses from advertising; others argued that it wasn’t fair just to allow a few Main Street businesses the right to use the signs when every business in Camp Verde could use the help.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that small business is not in [the Town Council’s] best interests, and we are tired of being misled,” said Bill Carter of Camp Verde Realty, speaking on behalf of the Camp Verde Merchant’s Committee. Carter said the informal body of merchants was prepared to retain an attorney if its members were left unsatisfied.

The town is in a tough spot.

While there is concern about keeping control over the style and quality of signs that could line the town’s streets, many of the A-frame signs could sit in the town owned right-of-way alongside the street, opening the door to legal liability if a sign was found to contribute to an accident.

While not every A-frame sign would necessarily be on town property, several members of the business community defended the need for the signs.

Andy Dickey with Verde Barbell Gym said that his business, located on First Street, depends on the ability to use every marketing tool it can.
The merchants fighting for their signs also found support with shopkeepers who are allowed A-frame signs on Main Street.

Therese Tobish with Ancient Bear Gallery said she didn’t think it was fair that others couldn’t have a sign when her family’s business could.
Stilwell told the council she was still “mad as hell.”

While the council wasn’t allowed to discuss the issue last week because of the state’s open meeting laws, Gioia told the protestors that their point had been heard loud and clear.

The council is expected to readdress the matter next month.

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