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Silverdale residents are ‘watchdogs’ of sign code update

Work on an updated sign ordinance for Kitsap County is in progress and may include allowing digital signs. Some Silverdale area residents are concerned that current regulations are not being enforced. - Leslie Kelly
Work on an updated sign ordinance for Kitsap County is in progress and may include allowing digital signs. Some Silverdale area residents are concerned that current regulations are not being enforced.
— image credit: Leslie Kelly

A Silverdale-based citizens watchdog group has its sights set on proposed changes to Kitsap County’s sign code that are still in the works.

The group, led by Joyce Merkel, a former Kitsap County planner, is hoping to keep Silverdale Way from looking like the strip in Las Vegas.

“Many of us who live in Silverdale, and who own property here, do not want to see Silverdale turn into another Reno or Las Vegas or even an Aurora Avenue like in Seattle,” said Merkel. “We see Silverdale as a beautiful urban area, a place where people want to live and work and shop.”

Merkel said she’s been in touch with the Kitsap County Department of Community Development trying to get information about the changes that are being considered for the county’s sign code, but has been told there’s nothing on paper yet.

According to Darren Gurnee, county planner in charge of the sign code update, the changes are in process but there’s nothing to offer Merkel yet.

“We are currently developing preliminary language with the help of a specialized work team,” Gurnee said. “Public presentations are anticipated to take place by December.”

Gurnee said the language that is proposed in the updated sign code will go through the public process including an open house and presentations at various community councils and county organizations. It will also go to the county planning commission for recom

mendation, and finally to the board of county commissioners for approval.

The open house and community council presentations will likely begin in December, he said.

“We greatly value public participation in this process,” he said.

As to whether neon signs, like those in Las Vegas, will be allowed, he’s not sure right now.

“I can’t answer that at this time,” he said.

But if Merkel and the group she’s with have any say, flashing neon signs won’t be allowed along Silverdale Way.

“When I worked as a county planner, we worked with developers and engineers on signage and landscaping on various projects to make sure that Silverdale remained a beautiful place and that it’s urban qualities were enhanced by any signs that went up,” she said. “We’re watching to make sure that what changes come about won’t cheapen the beauty of Silverdale.”

Merkel also was critical of the fact that the county isn’t enforcing the code that it has now.

“We have people out there on the corners waving signs almost everyday,” she said. “By current code, that’s not allowed. But it wasn’t until I called the county that something was done about that.”

Too, she said, signs are posted along the streets as are sandwich boards which by code are not allowed.

When the 2014 Sign Code Update process began about six months ago, County Commissioner Josh Brown said the entire process could take up to a year.

At that time, Eric Baker, special projects manager for the county, said the current county sign code doesn’t allow for digital signs.

There have been, however, exemptions for such places as the YMCA on Randall Way in Silverdale and the sign at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

Requests had been made by places such as the Silverdale United Methodist Church, to place a digital sign along Silverdale Way, so that church staff could change the message on the church’s sign inside by computer, rather than being out in the weather taking down letters, “the old-fashioned way,” said Pastor Edd Denton.

Those kinds of modernizations are what the county is addressing with the changes, Baker said.

“The code is very restrictive as to height and size of signs and it prohibits electronic signs,” Baker said.

Commissioner Brown said he supports changes in the sign code, but wants them to make sense.

“We haven’t updated the sign code in the last 20 years,” he said. “I’m not interested in making Silverdale or Kingston or any part of the county look like Las Vegas.

But with the new LED technology that is out there, we need to make some changes and bring our code up to date.”

Brown said the sign code is part of the county’s Title 17 that also addresses zoning issues.

He said the county has establishing focus groups for all the major issues under Title 17 and expects to have reports and suggestions from those focus groups back to the county for action within the next year.

“The focus would be to make it (Title 17) a lean and business-friendly process that is easy to use and easy to administer,” Brown said.

“As far as signs go, I’m sure there are some things we can do that can be tastefully done and that are worthy of discussion.”

Questions on the sign code can be emailed to Gurnee at dgurnee@co.kitsap.wa.us, or call him at 360-337-5777.

 

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