Omak City Council approves new sign ordinance

— The City Council has adopted a new sign ordinance last Monday that regulates lighted, animated electronic signs and defines billboards as non-conforming uses.

The old sign code, adopted in 1995, will be replaced by the new one. The old code didn’t address the newer type of sign.

Officials started working on a rewrite after noticing a Main Street sign displayed flashing lights in red and blue colors, making people a block or more away think there was were emergency vehicles on the street, City Administrator Ralph Malone said.

Prior to adopting the ordinance, the council conducted a public hearing to gather comments on the proposal.

Contract Planner Kurt Danison said he, staff and the Planning Commission had spent the last year reviewing the existing sign code ordinance.

Several variance requests for signs came before the building official and there was a lack of regulation in the current code for electronic message center signs, so it became apparent the entire code needed to be reviewed and updated, he said.

The new code contains tables that quickly identify requirements for signs, based upon zoning and the type of sign.

The code was written so that existing signs in the central business district are in compliance and won’t create future issues with non-conformity.

Under the new code, billboard signs will no longer be allowed in the central business or highway business districts.

The two existing billboard signs in the highway business district will become legal, non-conforming signs with adoption of the ordinance. They will be allowed to remain until January 2024 to allow the owners to amortize their investments.

Mark Paine, facilities manager with Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union at 323 S. Main St., said he was concerned about a section requiring the building official be notified before changes can be made to an electronic message sign, such as the one at the credit union.

Building Official Jake Dalton said the requirement would allow his office to monitor the brightness and intensity of the sign, not the content of the message.

The code is written so the city can work with businesses if significant changes are planned to the signs that would distract drivers, he said.

Danison said the code is designed to deal with the speed of the message’s transition from one screen to another.

Paine said the credit union is unable to change the brightness of its sign.

In other business, the council:

  • Adopted an ordinance amending the water fund to allow for additional employee costs. The money covers costs of vacation and sick leave payouts to Mike Ervin, who retired from the Public Works Department, and additional costs for training Chief Water Operator Corey Wilder and assistant Wayne Beetchenow.
  • Approved the expenditure of $40,000 to cover the city’s share of a sidewalk and pedestrian approach project on Main Street. The state Department of Transportation is paying for the bulk of the project.
  • Referred to the Community Support and Public Safety Committee a request from city residents David Lindeblad and Elizabeth Fry to consider creating an “animal fancier permit” that would allow responsible pet owners to have three dogs instead of the currently allowed two. They said their daughter, Mary Lindeblad-Fry, recently picked up a stray in Nespelem and they would like to keep it but already have two dogs.
  • Adopted a resolution allowing the city to participate in the Local Government Investment Pool operated by the state Treasurer’s Office.
  • Renewed a memorandum of agreement with the Omak Visitor Information Center for the center to lease the city-owned building that houses the center.
  • Approved a resolution to buy two pickup trucks from Damskov Auto Sales, 707 Okoma Drive, for the Public Works Department for $40,255.42.
  • Agreed to buy a pickup truck for code enforcement/animal control from Barry Chrysler/Buick/Jeep of Ephrata for $25,813.60.
  • Amended the 2014-19 six-year street program to identify federal funding for the Engh Road-U.S. Highway 97-Riverside Drive intersection and a sidewalk on Omak Avenue.
  • Adopted a professional services contract with Dale Crandall to be the hearing examiner. The work previously was done by a Board of Adjustment. The previous contract with Crandall expired in 2010; the new one expires Dec. 31, 2016.
  • Endorsed a bicycle route through Omak. The route, mostly along state Highway 20, would run from Anacortes to the Idaho border.
  • Agreed to buy a four-wheel drive crew cab pickup for the fire chief’s use. The vehicle will be purchased from Bud Clary Auto Group, Longview, for $35,172.01.
  • Accepted a $2,000 grant from Home Depot Foundation for fencing supplies for the new dog park in East Side Park. The Dog Park Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 2 N. Ash St.
  • Learned the Omak Fire Department will celebrate its 100th anniversary in April.

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