A row of temporary, but legally permitted signs, have been placed along K-15 by El Paso Village businesses which are hidden behind the trees.
Come Sept. 15, Riverside Cafe in Derby’s El Paso Village, will have been open a year. The restaurant has advertised heavily since it opened, offering coupons for those seeking an old-fashioned meal.
On Monday morning, though, in came a new customer who said she didn’t realize the cafe was open. Paul Cohlmia, owner of Riverside Cafe with his wife, Heather, said that still happens from time to time.
It is why they have a small sign out along K-15 Highway.
“You can never do enough advertising,” he said.
While El Paso Village is next to K-15 – Derby’s highest traveled roadway – mature trees and landscaping next to the highway keep the shopping center hidden from passersby. In addition, the state-controlled right-of-way has kept the shopping center from erecting a new sign for the businesses.
For now, the small temporary signs are making a difference, business owners say. Dan Dearduff, owner of Outback Bait and Tackle, said his company just pays the $25 a month city permit fee for the small signs every time they pay their water bill.
“We definitely need it out there,” he said.
The process has been workable, he said, and it pays off in customers. He has continually expanded his retail space since opening this spring.
“They seem to be finding me OK,” he said.
Mary Alumbaugh, owner of Mary’s Unique Floral and Gifts, put her sign out in January when she opened. She noted that the park’s landscaping blocks the tall 1950s-era El Paso Village sign in the parking lot and her customers have told her they saw the small sign on K-15.
“It has helped tremendously,” she said. “It will hurt if I cannot have it out there anymore.”
Alumbaugh has paid her sign permit on a three-month basis, but when she sent in a single month’s payment this renewal period, she had to fill out more paperwork.
Jeff Lange, owner of Jeff Lange Real Estate, moved offices into the shopping center when it underwent extensive renovations about six years ago. In that time he has found it difficult to get people to recognize where his offices are.
“We have a big sign on the other side of the trees, but people can’t see it,” he said.
Lange put up a small sign out on K-15 when the other businesses began doing the same thing.
“That’s made a huge difference,” he said, adding that he believes a larger collective sign would be good for the shopping center, along with the removal of a few trees to make it more visible.
On Monday, crews were working to survey the property to determine exactly where state control ends and the city’s begins. That is the next step in the process to determine what the businesses can do about erecting a permanent sign, according to Charlie Brown, director of city development.
The problem dates back about 20 years, he said, to a time when Nelson Drive was still a frontage road serving the businesses along K-15. Then as the city began to grow, the K-15 and Buckner intersections were offset and curved and the frontage road closed in front of El Paso Village.
In the mid-1990s it was decided to create the park, which was named after former city employee Ward Clements. KDOT was in agreement with that idea and dedicated some of its right-of-way for the park. In addition, the city gave up part of the street.
When Steve Kelley purchased El Paso Village, he posed the idea of a new sign for the shopping center. KDOT is not willing to allow the advertising on its rights-of-way and did not approve the sign.
“So now we don’t know exactly what we are going to do,” Brown said. “That’s the biggest challenge is the business owner cannot put it on the right-of-way.”
Along with the state right-of-way, amendments have been made to other street and property boundaries in that area over the years.
“That is not unique to Derby, either,” said Cody Bird, city planner.
It was the placement of the first sign by one of the El Paso businesses which alerted the city staff to the problems they faced. Brown said that did generate conversation and staff worked to allow the renewable permits for the temporary signs while the unique problem is worked through.
Sign ordinances are posted on the city’s website, www.derbyweb.com. However, Bird noted the regulations can be difficult to understand, so he advises anyone wishing to post a sign in the community to call him first.
“It’s much easier to try and figure out how to make something work, than change it retroactively,” he said. “We’re not just here to say ‘no.’”
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