Friday, August 8, 2014

Sign Code Restrictions Discussed at City Council

The Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce mission includes advancing a strong business climate by being a catalyst for community and economic development in our region. Community improvement and economic growth come from a thriving business environment; when our local small businesses are able to grow their bottom line they are able to retain and hire new employees and reinvest in community needs. But to be able to do that good public policy needs to be in place that provides small businesses tools to succeed and removes barriers to success.
A significant way we can strengthen Flagstaff is by improving our city’s sign code to better reflect the needs of an economy in recovery. A study prepared by the University of Cincinnati and the Signage Foundation found that if a business chooses to use advertising signage to promote themselves it can help improve sales by as little as 10%  and much more, and can even lead to small positive impacts on employment at those businesses. For Flagstaff businesses a 10%+  increase in volume could contribute major dividends to strengthening our community.
Unfortunately, many of our city’s business owners and operators have felt that Flagstaff has too stringent of a regulation on signs, leading some to not bother with a significant investment in promotional signage due to penalties that are too high, permits that cost more than the signs themselves, and a permit application process that is too cumbersome.
Earlier this year, we conducted a survey among Chamber member businesses to gauge their opinions on the city’s current sign regulations. Responses were robust with more than 140 member businesses weighing in and the results were not surprising. Over 67% of respondents indicated that they felt the current code was too complicated. Only 15% said they had an above average opinion of the current regulations. Over 54% agreed that their business could benefit from a de-regulated code on temporary A-Frame (sandwich board) signs.
In the spring, Chamber staff went before the Flagstaff City Council to present the results of this survey to members of council and city staff advocating for a less burdensome, easier to understand, and less costly sign code to promote a stronger small business environment and robust economy. Some of the reforms for which the Chamber has advocated include:
- Continuing to respect our dark sky ordinance
- Allow for directional way-finding/off-premise signs
- Rescind permit requirement for indoor & inside window signage
- Give businesses an incentive to replace free-standing/old signage without fees or reapplication
- Allow A-Frame signs without a permitting process so long as their use conforms to a set standard
The Chamber applauds the city council for moving forward with amendments which reflected many of our suggestions including: removing the need for a permit for an A-Frame sign, allowing for directional signage to a business and adopting incentives for business owners to replace their old signs.  We still have work to do.  A vote on the final sign code revisions should take place early in the Fall.
To keep up-to-date with the sign code revisions and to see the full results of our member survey, visit our advocacy website www.flagbizvotes.com

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chamber Active on Wildfire Prevention Legislation

A Message from the President

Last week the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce sat in on a conference call with Senator John McCain, representatives from his office, and the offices of Senator Jeff Flake and Senator John Barasso of Wyoming, to hear about S.2593, FLAME Act Amendments Act of 2014. Senator McCain began his conversation stating what an incredible challenge we have in the Southwest regarding fire and water.

The FLAME Act Amendments are tweaking the original legislation passed in 2009. Senator McCain bases his sponsoring of the legislation on the 2.4 million acres needing thinning in the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. Forest thinning can reduce the severity of a fire and the associated suppression
costs. But forest thinning cannot be successful without commercial enterprise to do it since the associated costs would be an enormous burden on the federal government.

Very high temperature fires are created when thinning isn’t done, which ultimately cause more catastrophic effects than if a burn reaches a thinned out area. This summer we watched the San Juan fire near Show Low torch over 7,000 acres of the White Mountain Apache Reservation and the Apache-
Sitgreaves National Forests. That number could have easily been multiplied if not for the decade-long White Mountain Stewardship Project. In S.2593 there is a requirement for the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to dedicate appropriate funding to hazardous fuel reduction. There is also a discussion about categorizing catastrophic fires as FEMA national disasters; ditching the 10 year average cost of fire suppression to truly document what we have been spending in the past 3 years to better understand actual costs associated with suppression today and what budgetary measures should change to meet current drought conditions; requesting the Department of Defense to transfer newer aircraft to suppression efforts, versus outdated military aircraft which cannot meet our demands; and lastly to consider taking 50% of the $1.9 billion that is dedicated to suppression and dedicate it to hazardous fuel reduction or simply – forest thinning.

We applaud our Senators McCain, Flake, and Barsso for taking a lead on an issue so near and dear to all of us in Flagstaff and across the state. The bottom line is that we can’t continue to put more dollars into emergency fire situations and maintain the status quo while ignoring the excess fuel loads in our national forests that cause the catastrophic fires. Your chamber remains actively involved in many issues that affect our livelihood and local economy. Thank you for your membership investment; you allow the Greater Flagstaff Chamber to remain active affecting good policy decisions on many fronts as a catalyst for community and economic prosperity throughout our region. You are valued!

Boy Scouts Build New Park for 'Second Chance' Dogs

Thanks to a local Boy Scout troop, the dogs at Second Chance Center for Animals can now let out some energy and build confidence in the shelter’s own backyard.
When Anthony Violissi of troop #7033 approached SCCA looking for a project, they tasked his troop to build a confidence training park for the dogs temporarily staying the shelter.
 Mark Markussen, the adoptions and outreach manager at Second Chance, designed the course to be similar to the one set up in Bushmaster Park – which he designed for the City.
“I set it up so that any dog can complete the course,” Markussen said. “There are a few more difficult obstacles, but they’re all modifiable so that even a small dog, for instance, can get over everything. We use it particularly for dogs that have less confidence.”
Violissi found different donors to provide all of the supplies and materials needed to create the park. Then, he and his scout troop went out to the shelter for two days and constructed the course.
Mark was impressed with Violissi’s drive and leadership skills.
“Anthony was the lead guy and he learned a lot about leading,” Markussen said. “It was really cool to watch him figure out what he needed to do over the two days. I think the rest of the scouts really got some good work ethic out of it. They all stayed focused and got everything done and stayed on schedule. It was awesome.”
Markussen explained that Second Chance’s goal is to take care of the body, mind, heart and spirit of all of the animals that come in to their facility. The confidence course helps stimulate the dogs’ minds, keeps their bodies strong and their spirit high.
“Most shelters can only focus on Body – which is survival,” Markussen said. “We take it a step further by having a behavioral department so we can also focus on Mind, Heart and Spirit. We think about mind by actually giving them adoptable behaviors. Socially, they get play time together. They also get to interact with people. And finally, Spirit. Most dogs come here with an unbroken spirit and it’s up to us to not break that spirit. We need to make sure their lives are enriched while they’re here.”

To learn more about Second Chance Center for Animals, visit their website: secondchancecenter.org.