Signs advertising businesses, real estate, political candidates and the like can regularly be seen near shopping centers and at intersections in Murrieta.
The questions become: how long should signs be posted for, should there be size restrictions, should there be a permit process and how should the city enforce violations?
In a Murrieta City Council workshop held Feb. 7, a consensus was reached to assign a citizen task force comprised of representatives from the business, real estate, religious, sports and residential communities.
"I'm not sure the people up here are qualified to be the final arbitrators...for what are First Amendment rights," said Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gibbs.
The last time the ordinance was updated was in 1999. In recent years, with the downed economy, city staff said more signs are cropping up around town, prompting the need to review regulations.
Temporary signs were defined by city staff as inflatables, those held by twirlers, wooden signs, A-frames, banners, pennants, flags, yard sale signs, those on vehicles, painted signs and political or campaign signs.
They are seen on building walls or windows, fences, utility poles, trees, held up by string, and sometimes they are in the public right-of-way, according to city staff.
"We have a proliferation of temporary signs and (we are) very lax on enforcement," City Manager Rick Dudley said during the workshop. "How vigorously should temporary signs be enforced?"
According to Dudley, enforcement is currently "scattered." He suggested an online no-fee permitting process to keep track of time allotments for temporary signage.
"My purpose is not to over-regulate...the clearer it is, the better it is for enforcement," Dudley said.
Kimberly Davidson, business development manager for the city of Murrieta, was asked whether she had any marketing data as to whether temporary signs attracted business. Davidson did not have access to such data, but in her marketing expertise said signs up for an extended period of time "do not help."
"It just becomes noise; one doesn't stand out from the other," Davidson said.
Council members agreed signage was getting out of hand in some places.
"...I've seen 4 x 4 posts with wood in the public right-of-way," said Mayor Doug McAllister. "It is out of control...This is not just a business district, it is the residents', too. It is their city, too. Our role in government is to make sure folks play nice and then get out of the way."
The reason behind nominating a task force was to ensure any new regulations were fair to all components of the community. The task force—to be nominated by City Council members—will be asked to bring its recommendations before the City Council at a March 22 meeting.
As of Monday, Associate City Planner Cynthia Kinser said they were narrowing the list of task force members down.
Councilman Randon Lane said he feared over-regulating small business.
"...That is something I do not agree with," Lane said. "When you start talking about someone's livelihood—like a real estate agent—I am opposed to that."
Councilman Alan Long said he valued what the business community had to say.
"I don't feel there is a need to get a permit if you are setting up signs," Long said. "At the end of the day, what we come up with needs to be clear, concise and consistent with everyone."
City Council expressed the need to have provisions in place prior to primary elections in June.
"It would behoove all of us to have this done by election season," Gibbs said.