By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Portable sign rules could be loosened by the Keizer City Council after it voted to initiate the process last week.

One area they won’t touch – at least for now – are the sign wavers, twirlers and holders who have become a more frequent sight on River Road.

Sherrie Gottfried, a member of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development and Governmental Affairs (EDGA) committee, had asked the council whether human sign holders would be part of the discussion. She clarified later she didn’t want the council to discuss the matter until EDGA had a chance to address it.

“We just wanted to make sure it was not part of it because we hadn’t discussed it yet,” Gottfried said. “We aren’t against human wavers at all, but we think there may need to be some guidelines set.”

She didn’t elaborate on what the guidelines might be. But the issue nevertheless set off a brief debate before councilors opted not to include it in the city’s proposed rule changes on temporary signs.

City Attorney Shannon Johnson said attempting to regulate human sign holders can be a tricky legal proposition.

“The federal constitution gives greater protection to political, non-commercial versus commercial,” Johnson said. “In Oregon commercial speech gets the same benefit as non-commercial.”

Owners and managers from businesses who use them say they do so for one simple reason: It works.

“On weekdays we do what we can to bump (sales) up a little bit,” said Charles Bilderback, assistant manager at Little Caesar’s Pizza.

Bilderback said it “absolutely” was an effective strategy.

Hughie Baker, who owns Keizer Computer Annex on River Road, also has hired an employee to hold a sign from time to time – but said allowing for temporary signage would alleviate that expense.

“Say they allowed A-boards from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. – that is cheaper to me as a small business owner to do,” Baker said. “But since I can’t do that legally, I’ve had a guy out there, and it does raise awareness.”

Because of the nature of his business, he said it’s sometimes hard to tell whether having a person holding his sign on the sidewalk improves business.

“It just depends,” Baker said. “If someone is looking for our service it helps. Sometimes when I have a guy or girl out there it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. … But an A-frame sign of some sort would be more economical for a little guy like me.”

While reiterating the chamber doesn’t oppose using human sign holders, Gottfried said their use could create safety issues for the driving public and the worker alike.

“Our biggest worry is sign wavers are a distraction to drivers; they do cause you to look away from the road,” Gottfried said.

On the portable sign issue: Public hearings will be held, and eventually the council will decide whether to loosen temporary sign rules.

The proposals are: Allowing A-frame signs as temporary signs with a maximum size of six square feet, a professional appearance and sturdy makeup, allowable only on private property behind the sidewalk. They could not be placed in a pedestrian way, sidewalk or exit and must be spaced at least 50 feet apart. They also must be removed after business hours.

Next to a doorway they would be allow with fewer restrictions, provided they didn’t block sidewalks or exits and must be taken inside after business hours. Maximum size would still be six square feet.

Integrated business centers would be allowed more temporary signs – they are currently allowed only one.

“Feather” signs – those that resemble a vertical flag – would be allowed as a temporary sign. Revisions could cut in half  the allowable size of real estate signs.