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OUR TURN: New sign rules in Horseshoe Bay worth a look

There is no question Horseshoe Bay officials have worked hard to maintain that city’s innate charm, but mounting calls to update its sign ordinances are worth a look.

Surely the old guard who wish to preserve the city’s retro feel can reach some kind of compromise with the Horseshoe Bay Business Alliance, which wants to see some very restrictive sign ordinances relaxed.

A recent discussion at City Council about allowing new signs for the Summit Rock development sparked some lively debate from the business alliance, which argued that a variance for the subdivision should also lead to changes for the overall sign rules.

This isn’t the first time the business alliance has asked for a touch of modernism so that customers can more easily locate their businesses by displaying more prominent signs.

Virtually all signs — garage sale, real estate and even open-for-business signs — are prohibited in the city limits. These are rules that many, not just the business alliance, feel are counter-productive.

But city leaders argue they are doing this to keep the landscape uncluttered and to enhance property values.

As to Summit Rock, the Horseshoe Bay Resort — which is the primary owner of the subdivision — requested a variance involving marketing and promotions signs for the 1,500-acre development.

Many of the signs are 8 feet by 4 feet and would need to be approved by the city.

Officials from the resort actually reduced the initial request from 10 signs, primarily standing nearly 4-feet high and 8-feet wide, to four signs across the development. Among the eliminations are signs visible from FM 2147, the area’s main thoroughfare.

The new signs are behind gates in the burgeoning subdivision.

The request is also temporary. The signs would come down after three years.

Hopefully the council will approve the exemption. Observers say that seems likely.

But that still doesn’t address the overall issue — bringing the city’s sign ordinance into the 21st century, which is what the business community wants and which makes sense — or dollars and cents, to put it another way.

No one is asking the council to allow huge, garish billboards to litter the landscape. Neighboring cities such as Marble Falls also have prohibitions against oversized signs.

But in Horseshoe Bay, there certainly must be a middle ground where merchants can be allowed to make their signs a little bigger and more prominent without upsetting the sensibilities of the city fathers.

In a tough economy, business people need every edge they can get. While Horseshoe Bay is arguably still a golfing and resort community, there is enough of a business presence there — including a new grocery store — that warrants giving the merchants more visibility.

Given the nation’s sluggish economy, more visibility for a business can equate to better chances for survival.

The merchants deserve a fighting chance to make their businesses grow and prosper.

That’s really not too much to ask.

The community must continue to seek a trade-off between a classic appearance and not impeding the success of local business ventures.