Short-term help OK'd for signs on Walla Walla County roads

Commissioners have approved an interim change that could help businesses on Old Highway 12.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County commissioners today approved an interim change in the county code to help people, particularly wineries, place signs along roads.

The change in Chapter 17.28 of the code will allow signs to be placed 15 feet from the edge of the "traveled roadway" or one foot from the edge of the right or way, whichever distance is greater. Previously, signs were supposed to be set 30 feet back from edge of the right of way, except in areas zoned as commercial or industrial.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing Aug. 30 to help them decide whether to make the change permanent. If that isn't done, the code will revert to the previous 30-foot setback, said Jesse Nolte, deputy prosecuting attorney.

The change is partly in response to concerns from more than a half-dozen wineries on what is now Old Highway 12, which has been bypassed by a new four-lane section of U.S. Highway 12. That section extends from just east of Lowden to Walla Walla.

The new highway has taken away the drive-by traffic to which the wineries along the old highway had become accustomed. Exacerbating matters was the fact that many of the feeder roads that connect the two highways don't have signs to direct motorists to tasting-room destinations.

The change will also address numerous signs now placed along county roads that do not meet the setback rule but don't pose any problem or hazard.

Commissioners emphasized their action only changes the setback requirements. People wanting to put up signs still need to obtain a building permit and adhere to all other codes pertaining to safe placement, not obstructing sight lines and other matters.

State regulations at present won't allow winery operators to add signs to the old highway. But the old highway and other sections of the new highway, including right of way land near the feeder sections, is in the process of being deeded over to the county.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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