story by Ryan Saylor
The Fort Smith Board of Directors passed an ordinance at its Tuesday (Aug. 5) meeting that would restrict the location of temporary signs in rights of ways, a decision the Fort Smith Board of Realtors said could impact its business.
The ordinance limits the placement of temporary signs, such as yard sale or for sale signs to 10 feet back from the street if no sidewalk is present or on the opposite side of the sidewalk from the street if a paved sidewalk is present. The Board had previously expressed concerns about signs advertising credit repair and rent to own properties cluttering public right of ways.
A July 22 study session of the Board of Directors directed City Attorney Jerry Canfield and Development Services Director Wally Bailey to research whether the Board could pass an ordinance that would limit the sign restrictions to just certain corridors without restricting neighborhoods. Bailey said an ordinance could be drafted to that standard if the Board directed.
The Board did not direct city staff to change the ordinance, but instead continued discussion on the current ordinance. Bailey told the Board that the ordinance up for a vote Tuesday would allow for weekend posting of signs in right of ways for special events, such as open houses and yard sales as long as the individual posting the sign had permission from the landowner.
Robin Mulac, president of the Fort Smith Board of Realtors, said the organization had concerns about the ordinance before its passage Tuesday. In her remarks, she told the Board of Directors it could negatively impact Realtors and clients.
"We are big proponents of single family home ownership and one of the most basic rights of home ownership is the right to sell. And we're a little apprehensive about anything that might limit that, telling us where we can put signs in people's yards. That's a little bit of a concern that's on our minds."
She said with the setback of 10 feet from the road, some homeowners may decide to move the sign legally placed by the realtor and may then be in violation of the ordinance. She said landscapers and others doing work on properties may also remove the signs and may return the sign to an improper location according to the new ordinance.
Mulac said the Board of Realtors was also concerned about how limiting sign placement could negatively impact not only new home sales, but also the various businesses associated with home purchases who could be negatively impacted by even a small drop in home sales.
City Director Pam Weber, who is a Realtor, said the she thought the ordinance was about beautification of the city and would not negatively impact the ability of realtors to sell homes in the area.
"We need to do something to get rid of the visual clutter in our town and make our town look better," she said.
Weber added that "the better we look, the better we'll do economically." The ordinance passed Monday, she said, was an effort to further beautification efforts and improve the local economy, as well.
The measure was approved by a 6-1 vote, with Director Kevin Settle opposed.
In other business, the Board passed a rezoning of 11701 Custer Boulevard, 7201 Fort Chaffee Boulevard and 12201 Roberts Boulevard in Chaffee Crossing from not zoned to a planned zoning district. The area includes the new River Valley Sports Complex, which is now under construction as the U.S. Army Reserve has commenced dirt work at the site.
Another rezoning was approved at 8801 Wells Lake Road, from not zoned to light commercial. The location will house a second Red Rooster Bistro location at Chaffee Crossing.
The Board also passed state-mandated updates to construction codes and passed approved a resolution to authorize Mayor Sandy Sanders to execute an additional 10-year franchise agreement with Newroads Telecom for a non-exclusive wholesale fiber optics network.