Council in a jam over sandwich boards

Langley officials decided to temporarily suspend an ordinance prohibiting the display of sandwich board signs.

City council members were in a pickle Monday night when Community Planning Director Brigid Reynolds brought a recent concern from the city’s Design Review Board to the council’s attention.

Reynolds said the presence of sandwich boards signs, which have proliferated recently on the sidewalks outside of downtown businesses, go against municipal code. The Design Review Board recommended that the code be enforced and the signs removed.

Reynolds acknowledged the existence of the newer outdoor expansion proclamation for the Langley businesses. She said Langley Chamber of Commerce Director Inge Morascini asked for leniency around the sandwich board signs, given the current pandemic.

Approximately 10 businesses, both retailers and restaurants, have the signs up, Reynolds added.

Council Member Dominique Emerson pointed out that the presence of the boards have partially blocked sidewalks and made walking around them difficult.

Other council members, however, thought merchants had enough on their plates already with the pandemic.

Council Member Thomas Gill responded that he never agreed with the city having any regulation over sandwich boards.

“I think it’s a stupid thing for us to have to deal with, and it certainly holds back a lot of the people who are trying to get their business started,” he said.

As long as the signs didn’t impede traffic, Gill supported keeping them in place.

Fellow Council Member Peter Morton agreed, saying he thought the merchants have good taste and don’t intend to cause injury to anyone with the placement of their signs.

Mayor Tim Callison described a “long-term dislike” of the sandwich board signs in the city of Langley. Callison said a former mayor would often go around town collecting signs and throwing them into the back of his truck.

He pointed to Freeland as an example of a place where sandwich boards have run amok and may impede traffic.

Council members questioned the allowance of the COVID-related signs along Cascade Avenue that encourage mask-wearing. Callison responded that he invoked his emergency powers as mayor for those signs.

The council asked Reynolds for a staff recommendation on the sticky matter. She responded that she thinks sandwich board signs allow people to see that a business is open.

“If you’re looking at a menu, you’re not crowded around a small little sign in the window,” Reynolds said.

Council members voted unanimously to suspend the sign-prohibiting ordinance through the end of September, with the option to revisit the matter.

“If we’re still in Mask Town, then I think we can talk about it at that point,” Gill said.

If a sandwich board sign is blocking the sidewalk, council members decided that the public works staff, instead of the police force, should be in charge of enforcing the removal or relocation of the sign.

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