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Sandwich boards: A menace to society?
POULSBO On any given day, there are about two dozen of them along Front Street in Poulsbos downtown core. For a two-block stretch of sidewalk, thats no small number.
They are sandwich boards. And theyre as necessary as they are detrimental. Their presence, a true Catch-22.
So the city of Poulsbo and the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association (HDPA) are pulling their creativity together and hoping two agencies will be greater than one in finding a suitable solution for all parties. In a situation affecting business owners as much as it does one-time downtown tourists, it seems theyve already got some decent options from which to choose.
The city currently allows sandwich boards no greater than six square feet in size on privately owned business property. City Planning Director Barry Berezowsky said he is aware many Front Street sandwich boards dont comply with the regulations, but the city only enforces the rule on a complaint basis. A first citation for improper placement of a sandwich board is $250, the next is much more substantial, he said.
The trouble with the things is when placed on public right-of-way sidewalk spaces, they pose the problem of tripping pedestrians, blocking storefront and handicap accesses, invading a persons line of sight and detracting from the downtowns beloved Scandinavian atmosphere and charm. They can also be hazardous in a wind storm, Berezowsky said.
A city similar to Poulsbo in its displays of heritage, Leavenworth has banned the marketing devices. Leavenworth Codes Administrator Patrick Dalton said the Bavarian village specifically prohibits the use of sandwich boards, with a few exceptions in the case of real estate signage. He said city officials felt the apparatuses detracted from the towns cultural theme and posed a safety hazard.
Being a small city with a small core area we feel like it just clutters up the area too much, he said.
HDPA president and Tizleys Europub and Europa Deli owner Tammy Mattson said Poulsbos codes need some clarification when it comes to sandwich board tolerance, but the downtown merchant organization is also working on coming up with potential alternatives to their presence. Theyll bring those ideas to the citys next Public Safety/Legal (PSL) Committee meeting in February.
Were trying to work with the city cooperatively to have good visual marketing tools for business locations without having obstacles, she said, adding especially for merchants along Jensen Way, which doesnt appear at first glance to be a part of the downtown shopping core, those sandwich boards are vital for business.
For them, its absolutely critical, she said.
The HDPA has so far considered developing the Jensen corridor to look more like an inviting retail path, as well as directional sign posts with arrows leading to various downtown business that would less clutter Front Streets sidewalks but still afford information for Poulsbos visitors.
Councilwoman and PSL committee member Kim Crowder said there is a fear of people injuring themselves by tripping over the boards. But just as strong is the fear that without them, some businesses would take a major hit.
She, too, has considered the directional sign post idea, as well as the idea of a business map for the community, allowing residents and visitors to know what is available to them and where.
We have to have some kind of a solution, she said.
Crowder has spearheaded the citys new Economic Development Committee, which is expected to be up and running this year. Until then, the PSL committee will continue to take on the task. It meets from 6-7 p.m. every second Wednesday of the month.