Dispute over feather flags in Chino Valley ruffling feathers
Some businesses, town’s development services department at odds
If you drive regularly around the Quad Cities, chances are you’ve seen at least one feather flag waving in front of a store.
You know, the ones with those long, curved poles planted in the ground. They’re typically 11 feet tall with various colored nylon signs attached to them. They often have words printed on them in big, bold type, noting a grand opening or a clearance sale, for instance.
Well, the Town of Chino Valley’s not putting up with these flags anymore. The reason, you ask?
Development Services Director Joshua Cook (no relation to this reporter), on the job since March, argues that the town’s sign code, specifically in Section 4.2, states temporary signs are permitted for six months before they must be taken down for good.
Cook said the code doesn’t stipulate whether a temporary signage permit can be renewed. Therefore, if enough business owners in Chino Valley want an indefinite extension on feather flags, the town would have to amend the code. It would take several steps to amend it, too, including getting approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Town Council.
On Sept. 19, Cook said he intends to give his interpretation of the code in front of the Chino Valley Board of Adjustment.
“I’m not against small businesses,” said Cook, adding that town officials have met four times in the past two months to try and update the temporary signage code language. “Every business can have two temporary signs at a maximum of 48 square feet. They must be maintained and in good repair.”
The town adopted the current sign ordinance in 2017. Before Cook arrived, the town had been lenient on enforcing the code as it relates to feather flags. For example, if you had driven up and down Highway 89 in Chino Valley last year, you would’ve noticed businesses small and large waving these flags proudly along the roadway.
Take a drive now and you’ll clearly see that a majority of these flags are no longer around – and several business owners, particularly on Highway 89, are, well, rather upset.
Mom-and-pop store owners say that when the flags went down, so did their sales. In other words, the current sign ordinance is hindering their bottom line.
Cook said in the long run it behooves businesses to pay for larger permanent signs to advertise. His main argument is rooted in aesthetics – as the feather flags suffer from wear and tear and fade in the hot Arizona sun, they become an eyesore. And, how many flags can you put up before it becomes a hazard?
However, couldn’t the town and businesses affected by the ordinance find a way to meet in the middle?
Cook said he and his staff want to schedule a meeting with the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce, business owners and the community sometime in September to iron out the problem.
Proposed changes to the town’s sign code, which were drafted during an Aug. 8 open-to-the-public town meeting and clamp down harder on temporary signage, have been tabled for now, Cook added.
William Nichols, who co-owns CBD Connection with Cindy Croley, said it’s a business visibility issue. They say they have lost hundreds of dollars in sales since they had to remove their flags next to a small permanent sign off the highway.
Drivers see the feather flags much like a green light at an intersection – that place is open for business, let’s go in!
“The flag is a landmark,” Nichols said. “We’re in the back of a plaza where we can’t be seen. It’s cut our business by 50%.”
Prior to Cook’s arrival, Tom Payne of Tom’s Print and Signs, said businesses could reregister for a temporary sign permit every six months.
A longtime small business owner, Payne said the policy was working because the town could better ensure that feather flags, for example, were appropriate and could be replaced, if necessary, because of wear and tear.
Payne added that he doesn’t understand why the town’s Development Services Department is against feather flags. He says that the better sales are in town, the more sales tax dollars are being generated to pay for public services.
Chino Valley has one of the highest sales tax rates in Arizona at 10.35%, primarily because the town charges no property taxes.
The bottom line, small business owners say, is that they want to stay open in Chino Valley because they love it here, and they need cooperation from the town to do so.
This month, Payne typed up a petition titled, “Issues with sign code 8-14-19,” which argues in support of feather flags “on a full-time, year-round basis” in Chino Valley. Through Aug. 21, more than 130 people had signed their names to the petition, agreeing with Payne, who will file the petition with the town soon.
In addition, the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce plans to survey its members for their opinions on the issue next month.
Mayor Darryl Croft was not immediately available this past week for comment about feather flags.