I’m not wanting to get in the way of people making things happen in the city [with] too many rules — Councilor Jim Owen
Does the City of Rio Rancho need to overhaul its sign code?
Does the city really need to regulate whether or not signs are in the public right of way? And what about flagpoles?
At Tuesday’s Governing Body Work Session Meeting, these questions resulted in a great deal of spirited discussion.
On the one hand, Director of Development Services Amy Rincon and City Manager Matt Geisel, explained an overhaul of the code was necessary to align it with federal regulations regarding content neutrality and it would be beneficial to streamline the code to make it more user-friendly.
On the other hand, Councilors Bob Tyler, Paul Wymer, and Jim Owen said they are worried that the overhaul went too far, particularly when it came to signs in the public right-of-way.
Because of a Supreme Court ruling in 2015: “Reed v the City of Gilbert, Arizona,” communities cannot establish sign ordinances that privilege certain business signs over others.
At issue is content neutrality. What is written on a sign cannot be considered when establishing ordinances regulating that sign.
For example, a sign advertising the opening of a new cannabis dispensary must be treated the same as a sign advertising the opening of a new subdivision. So, if one business’s sign is allowed, all businesses’ signs are allowed.
As a result, Chicago-based planning firm Camiros, Ltd., which drafted the new sign proposal, suggests no signs in the public right of way, at all.
Tyler said he got the content neutrality piece of the draft, but worried the overhaul “…will infringe on a lot of people’s rights.”
Wymer agreed with Tyler, saying, “I don’t like many of the changes,” and that he is worried the city “would get into the weeds and have some issues.”
Owen agreed with both Tyler and Wymer: “I’m not wanting to get in the way of people making things happen in the city [with] too many rules.”
The change to the sign code ordinance will not happen soon. Feedback from those affected by any of the changes will be solicited.
Rincon envisions not a single presentation, but an open house where staff is available to answer questions.
Then a draft of the changes will go to the Planning and Zoning Board, probably in October. The draft will then be sent to the Governing Body in November, with final approval not expected until December or possibly early 2023.
In other business, City Clerk Rebecca Martinez, explained how the city’s municipal elections work. Currently, municipal elections are held in positive years and are decided on majority vote as opposed to plurality.
Rincon then provided an overview of the development process and an update on current projects.