A Rio Rancho business owner believes the recent sign ordinance changes will force his company out of Rio Rancho and he’s threatening to sue, claiming contract violation.
However, the city councilor instrumental in creating the amendments says the changes are reasonable.
Alan Varner, owner of Southwest Mobile Media, said he loves 90 percent of the ordinance, but he believes four new rules are directed at him.
“I’ve been in business for 12 years here and never had a problem. Now I have a problem?” he said.
City Councilor Chuck Wilkins, who wrote most of the changes, said targeting Varner wasn’t his motivation.
“I just went through the ordinance and changed what I thought was fair,” he said.
Varner owns the mobile sign that former City Councilor Mike Williams used in his unsuccessful re-election campaign against Wilkins. The sign was the center of a controversy over whether Williams parked it illegally.
One of Varner’s concerns is that he has a contract with the city to provide kiosks on which home builders and developers can pay to put directional signs.
Previously, companies with a sign on the kiosk weren’t allowed to put another sign within a mile. An amendment removed that rule.
Varner said the change renders his contract useless. He said businesses can now put multiple signs at intersections where they have a place on the kiosk, leading to clutter and no one getting good exposure.
He said he has no choice but to sue the city for contract violation.
Wilkins said if a business paid to be on the kiosk and wanted another sign a half-mile down the road, it shouldn’t be penalized when someone not on the kiosk could do the same.
“It seems to me we’re hurting the businesses that are paying the city to be on the sign,” Wilkins said.
Also, since companies are allowed only 10 directional signs, he said, they aren’t likely to waste any by putting multiple signs at one intersection.
City spokesman Peter Wells said staff didn’t comment on threatened litigation.
Another big issue for Varner is his static sign trailers, which violate new rules. He said those signs were 50 percent of his business.
Without them, he said, he’ll have to move his company out of Rio Rancho.
“It won’t make it,” he said of his business.
Instead of being considered special event signs as before, Varner’s sign trailers are now classified as temporary signs and are thus too big to leave parked.
He said he has existing contracts for those signs and will have to return customers’ money. His sign trailers have promoted such things as governmental bond issues, Seats and Eats education fundraiser and Timbuctu at Mariposa restaurant.
Wilkins said city development services staff told him only four special event signs had been applied for in the last two years and one of those was the “Elect Mike Williams” sign, which Wilkins said was actually a political sign, not a special event sign.
“That was in two years, so I would hope three events isn’t the difference between going out of business and staying in business,” he said.
On mobile signs, drivers could park for a one-hour lunch break and two 15-minute breaks per day under the previous ordinance, but amendments initially required mobile signs to be parked only where they were stored.
However, the city governing body, including Wilkins, voted to allow a lunch break between noon and 1 p.m.
“That’s sufficient,” Varner said.
Still, he wants the amendments that apply to him repealed.