Changes to the city’s sign ordinance approved this week will give businesses more opportunity to promote themselves. But the new rules come with a host of new fees.
The changes streamline the process for businesses that want to put up signs away from their own premises.
Previously, businesses who wanted to put up off-premises signs had to apply to the planning and zoning board for a zoning variance; a more cumbersome process, said Councilor Mike Williams.
He said this will help businesses that may be situated in small side streets.
“This gives businesses more opportunity to advertise their business,” said Debbi Moore, president and CEO of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, and chairwoman of the task force that recommended the changes.
The task force made its report to the City Council in June 2010, based on researching the existing rules and gathering input from businesses.
The city staff developed the ordinance language with input from city councilors and members of the public.
The updated ordinance imposes restrictions on sign sizes and includes a prohibition on:
n Billboards and signs which make noise or have moving parts.
n Programmable electronic signs within residential neighborhoods.
Councilors voted 5 to 1 to approve the changes. Councilor Tim Crum was opposed because of the associated fees.
Councilors voted 4-2 on a separate resolution that included the new sign-related fees, including a $300 permit fee for off-premises signs, plus annual review fees of $200 for digital signs and $100 for directional signs. Crum and Councilor Steve Shaw cast the no votes.
“These are not consistent with being business-friendly,” Crum said.
He took exception to a $10 fee the city will now charge for sign storage and retrieval, which could include cases where campaign signs are blown down or are torn down.
“I just can’t see paying for that,” Crum said.
Charles Wilkins, who runs a Farmers Insurance agency in Rio Rancho, was concerned about a $266 fee associated with a new requirement for a “master sign plan.” The plan sets criteria for all signs within a proposed development, such as a business park covering more than five acres.
John Castillo , development services director, told councilors the fees were based on a review of fees in other cities in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Oklahoma.