Realtor outcry prompts swift pull of Scottsdale sign ordinance amendment

A new sign ordinance in the city of Scottsdale had regulations that would effect the local real estate market. (File Photo)

A new temporary sign ordinance update was slated to be voted on by the elected leaders of Scottsdale, before it was pulled from the agenda at the last minute due to an outpour of opposition from local Realtors.

The city of Scottsdale’s newest ordinance aims to update its requirements for temporary and semi-permanent signs, and to improve special event sign regulations from the zoning ordinance.

Specifically, the purpose of the amendment to the zoning ordinance is to regulate temporary signs based on time, place and manner; in addition to consolidating and reducing the number of temporary signs in order to have user-friendly sign requirements. Moreover the text removes the special event sign regulations from the zoning ordinance, which will now be a separate code amendment incorporating new provisions for special event signage into the city’s revised code.

Kathy Littlefield

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield says the council received over 500 emails about the ordinance.

The agenda item was officially removed from the March 21 city council agenda to address, and possibly incorporate, additional public comments and input received, said city planner, Andrew Chi in a March 29 emailed response to questions.

The Planning Commission passed the temporary sign ordinance 5-0 on Feb. 22.

The draft ordinance consolidates 17 existing temporary sign types into four, under the proposed “Temporary Sign” category. Additionally, it aims to base sign regulations on zoning district rather than the information displayed on such signs.

The four types are: post and panel signs, portable signs, banner signs and window signs.

Some of the proposed regulations to this new category of post and panel signs could directly harm Realtors, such as limiting how often they can change a sign, location and duration.

“What happened was a sign ordinance regarding house for-sale signs for the Realtors, and all of those kinds of signs, that changed into the commercial sign ordinance from where it was — which was special event,” Councilwoman Littlefield said in a March 29 phone interview. “This has to do with open houses and things like that, as well as the for-sale signs.”

Signs considered “on-premise post-and-panel signs” — which includes real estate and political signs — in the ordinance state a number of regulations including:

  • Minimum of 15 feet from back of street curb;
  • No more than two occurrences in a calendar year, with a minimum of 35 days between each occurrence; and 126 consecutive days within a calendar year.

Councilwoman Littlefield says she understands the Realtors’ concerns.

“I’ve been a Realtor, I’ve worked for Realtors, and I think that it’s something that needs to be re-addressed,” she said. “They didn’t anticipate some of the problems that might occur from this.”

Leading up to the March 21 city council meeting, Councilwoman Littlefield and others on the council began to forward some of the 500 emails they had received to City Manager Jim Thompson.

“We actually pulled this sign ordinance off the agenda so staff could back up and reconsider some of the implications of this,” she explained. “Which I think they will do. They’re trying to make things better for the city — but they’re not Realtors, they don’t think through what the consequences of this are.”

Additionally, Councilwoman Littlefield says the ordinance is very restricting.

“Another point of view I think is just as important is to limit to this extent what people can put in their yard, it limits the rights of the homeowner,” Councilwoman Littlefield said of the draft sign ordinance. “That’s something I think needs to be looked at very carefully when you talk about private property or commercial property.”

“The Sign Ordinance Update — Temporary Signs (Case 2-TA-2016), is tentatively scheduled to return to the City Council sometime in May for consideration, and possible adoption,” Mr. Chi said.

“Updating the Sign Ordinance will allow the code to be more user-friendly and easy-to-read — which will benefit Scottsdale residents and businesses.”

Mr. Chi also points out the update aims to implement the goals and approaches of the General Plan, by maintaining a community desire for strong sign control, reducing sign clutter and maintaining aesthetically pleasing streetscapes.

The test of time

The Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors put out an urgent message to its members just days before the planned city council meeting, urging Realtors to voice their opposition.

“We fully understand that Scottsdale needs to protect the city by having a sign ordinance that is non-discriminatory and simplified through standardization. Unfortunately, real estate signage needs are unique,” explained Rebecca Grossman, SAAR CEO, in a March 29 e-mailed response to questions.

“Days on market vary greatly depending on the price range, property type and location. To try and standardize the number of days a for sale sign can be on a listing simply does not work with an ever-changing market where one year an average can be 90 days and the next it can be almost a year.”

Ms. Grossman says even during the time of internet marketing platforms, open houses have withstood the test of time.

“Potential buyers don’t just want data and a virtual tour, they want to experience a home and the open house provides an easy way to do that,” she explained.

Jim McGiffert, SAAR’s board president, has owned a real estate franchise and has been a manager at another. He believes the sign ordinance is crucial to the real estate market.

“I would say it isn’t just the idea of selling that home itself that is crucial from the listing agents perspective,” he explained in a March 29 e-mailed response to questions.

“It is also the overall interaction with buyers that want to see what is for sale in specific areas and being able to compare prices and conditions of properties. It is the real live marketplace for the real estate business. Looking at listings online doesn’t give you the true understanding of location issues or home conditions that the open house experience does.”

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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