Business

With Redondo East comes sign problems

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

Just across Federal Way’s northern limit, in an unincorporated area known as Redondo East, several billboards overlook Pacific Highway South along with a large, painted wooden sign for a mobile home park and several tall, multi-tenant, pole-mounted signs.

As Redondo East’s residents and businesses weigh the costs and benefits of joining the city — an annexation election is expected in November 2004 — some business owners are wondering what will become of their signs, almost all of which are out of compliance with the city’s sign code.

The city’s community development director, Kathy McClung, told the City Council Dec. 2 she looked at the signs in Redondo East –– which is bordered by South 272nd Street to the north, Pacific Highway South to the east and 16th Avenue South to the west –– and came to the conclusion that about 95 percent of them would be out of compliance with city regulations.

Business owners in the strip mall located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Pacific Highway and South 272nd said they’d be opposed to annexation if they had to change their signs, but added they hadn’t heard anything about the proposal.

But Vinnie Ruziska, bartender and manager at Gloria’s Tavern, remembered when the city initially passed its sign code.

The bar she worked in on Military Road South had to make its signs compliant, but the owner left the old ones up until the city threatened the business with a $100-a-day fine, Ruziska said.

It was a contentious issue with business owners then, she said, and she expects it would be a contentious issue again.

“They’re going to throw a fit,” she said. “I can tell you right now, they’re not going to like it one single bit.”

Federal Way’s sign code, adopted in 1990 and amended in 1995, required business owners to convert their pole signs to pedestal- or ground-mounted signs and gave them a 10-year amortization period to conform. It banned billboards in city limits.

In 2000, city code enforcement officers started issuing notices of violation for businesses that were out of compliance. The fine for violating the sign code is $100 for each day the sign is left in place.

If Redondo East votes to annex into the city, officials could give business owners an amortization period like it did for other businesses located within city limits when the sign code was passed, or they could offer incentives to business owners to get them to change their signs.

The city also could allow businesses with signs visible along Pacific Highway South to leave them in place under the Scenic Vistas Act.

Deciding how to navigate the transition ultimately will lie with the council, McClung said.

After the city began fining businesses in 2000, several business owners located along Pacific Highway South filed a class-action lawsuit, saying the city had an obligation under the Scenic Vistas Act to compensate them for changing their signs.

The state Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on the case Jan. 12. But city attorney Pat Richardson said she didn’t know if the outcome of the lawsuit would affect how the city proceeds with the Redondo businesses, if the area is annexed.

Any decisions regarding how to proceed would be up to the City Council, Richardson said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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