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Sign code hits close to homes

Federal Way has taken its sign code to a new level in the eyes of some Century Palisades residents.

Last week, Diana Noble-Gulliford was exiting her neighborhood at 26th Place Southwest and Southwest Dash Point Road when she witnessed a disturbing site: Federal Way resident Scott McLean was chopping down the nearly 40-year-old wood sign that marked the entrance to Noble-Gulliford’s neighborhood.

The sign was in violation of the city’s sign code. McLean, who owns the property where the sign was located, had received a $100 citation for the violation and decided the sign was not worth continual tickets.

“They didn’t just tell me (to remove the sign), they wrote me a ticket and told me,” McLean said.

The sign, placed in the 1960s, came down — and neighbors’ frustrations have risen.

Resident Dave Hamlin called The Mirror to voice his disappointment in losing the sign. Noble-Gulliford and McLean both spoke with the city about the issue in hopes of coming to an agreement.

“I said look, this is how it has always been since 1962,” Noble-Gulliford said.

A developer constructed Century Palisades in the 1960s. The sign was placed near the entry of the development on unbuildable land owned by King County and known as Tract A.

Around the time Federal Way incorporated in 1990, the tract’s boundary lines were adjusted to make it a buildable area, said Matt Herrera, Federal Way assistant planner.

McLean purchased the land, featuring the long-standing Century Palisades sign, north of Decatur High School in 2005. He has applied to erect two homes on the property. McLean had no idea the sign was not in compliance with city code, he said.

“I had no intention of doing anything with it,” he said. “I would have just left it there.”

Apparently, that was not an option. A subdivision’s sign can be no taller than 5 feet in height and a maximum of 32 square feet, community development director Greg Fewins said. It also must be located on the subdivision’s property, he said.

The city notified the previous landowner and several residents of the neighborhood in 2001 that the land marker did not meet code, Fewins said.

“We sent a notice to a number of people in Century Palisades and said if you’d like to keep the sign, come in and see us,” he said.

The violation was never addressed. Without the leverage to require the owner to remove the sign, it stayed upright and the code violation remained an unresolved issue.

This past June, another complaint was made about the 144-square-foot sign, Fewins said. This reopened the case.

“The person that called reminded us that, gee, you started a process to remove that sign and didn’t follow through,” he said.

The 2007 strengthening of code enforcement allows compliance officers the ability to issue tickets for non-compliance.

“I know the city is doing their job, but they are coming about it the wrong way,” Noble-Gulliford said.

The city should have worked with Century Palisades residents to find a way to preserve the sign and follow city code, she said.

“I wish they would have sent something to the homeowners to say it’s not in compliance and ask for the sign to come down,” she said.

The city is more concerned with reviewing McLean’s application to build on the land than with educating neighbors on why the sign was removed, Noble-Gulliford said.

“Whether he builds there or not, we are going to need a new sign,” she said.

To meet city code, a new sign must be located on the same land as the subdivision, which would put it out of site from S.W. Dash Point Road, and meet size requirements, Fewins said. If the neighborhood does not have a homeowner’s association and land to place a new sign on, it could be placed on private property with that owner’s permission, he said.

Residents would need to pay for the construction as well as a sign permit costing approximately no more than $100, Fewins said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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