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North Bend merchants rally against design standards

NORTH BEND — A group of North Bend merchants met last

week to discuss concerns over the city's role in controlling their businesses.

The business owners, who are in the process of forming the North

Bend Merchants Association, are wary of how the city's proposed design

standards would affect the town's future.

The city has been working for more than 18 months on the City

of North Bend Design Standards and Guidelines which is meant to

provide specific requirements for residential and commercial design, including

site, sign, landscape and building design. In short, it is the plan for the

future North Bend — in both what the city will look like and how it will

function.

The merchants attended the City Council and Planning

Commission's joint public hearing on April 18 to voice their opinions.

"It concerns me when government starts making decisions for

business," said Terry Hill, owner of Maguire

& Hill Real Estate. "The city government has been pushing this plan of

what they want the town to look like and I don't think it's coming from the

citizens, but a core group down at the city."

Many of the merchants that met at the North Bend Bar and Grill

on Wednesday, April 12, agreed with Hill.

One of the aspects of the design standard that they disliked was

the proposed downtown painting permit, which would require the use of

"subdued and earthtone colors" on building exteriors.

The other concern was the proposed sign guidelines, which

according to Chapter 6 of the design document, were "set to recognize that

the primary function of signs is to identify an enterprise or business, and

not to advertise goods and/or services that the business provides."

But the business owners at Wednesday's meeting said the

sign standard will hurt their income because the main purpose of a sign is

to advertise and market a business.

"I think what happens is that everybody wants to cosmetically

change things, but as a business owner, you've got to be aware that marketing is

also a very important part of our signage," Hill said. "I use the example of

how having a black sign with black lettering is not good marketing. So it's

important that whatever the city is going to come up with for the design

standards makes good marketing sense, too."

Steve Taylor, senior planner for the planning commission, said that

residents tend to react strongly any time laws are about to change.

"I think people need to understand that the design standards are an

outgrowth of the city's vision plan and comprehension plan, that stems

from the city council. If this is not what the people want, then they need to tell

the council," he said.

Taylor wants to get the message out to North Bend residents to be

as specific as possible in their comments to the city council and planning

commission about what they like or dislike concerning the design standards.

Iron Age co-owner Steve Margolis has been visiting other business

owners to encourage feedback to the city.

"As the old adage goes — government for the people, by the people,

and it should also say for the business, by the business. We all need to get

involved," he said.

Hill agrees that business owners and the city need to come together

and decide what is best for North Bend.

"I would love to see the downtown flourish and really come back

strong, but I don't want the city passing government laws forcing business

owners to do certain things. The city and business community haven't

balanced together enough so we have a continuing flow of ideas," he said.

The city is accepting written comments on the design standard

until April 27 and will revise the document if necessary. The city council is

expected to adopt the proposal as early as May.

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