For several area businesses in South Bend a recent cease and desist order from the City of South Bend will have them taking down their advertising "flags" by the end of June.
It may be a sign of the times in Pacific County in both the latest industry to enter into the economy of the county, marijuana, and social media, in this case Facebook.
The office of the City of South Bend started to receive a couple of complaints about the "Flying Man" sign that Growers Outlet, the recreational marijuana store in South Bend, is using to advertise their product. Those complaints hit social media and drew quite a few comments from concerned citizen on personnel social media Facebook pages.
This drove the city council to request that the City Planning Commission look at the current City Sign Ordinance to see if it needed to be amended to address the social controversy. In the interim, the city also decided that it needed a stopgap and delivered cease and desist orders to most every business in the city limits that used any type of wind catching type advertisement.
Those who have been served the order to take down their advertising flags, many who have been flying these signs for over a year or longer, include: Lupita's, Willapa Bar and Grill, Jessie's Seafood, Grower's Outlet, 101 Public House, and Bud's Lumber.
Speaking to area merchants who received the order prior to the Planning Commission meeting this past June 1, many felt that the use of the signs provided additional revenue and added a specific ambiance to the area as it is a port community.
At the meeting several representatives of local businesses were present along with one unaffiliated concerned member of the public, all in support of the businesses being allowed to use the signs to advertise their business. There was no one present who spoke out about the sings to say that they should be taken down.
As the meeting progressed and business members spoke to how the flags improve their bottom-line, in some cases as much as 30 percent or more, it was also pointed out that one image that had been posted to a different social media site, one of the flying man advertisements, had gone viral and now close to 400,000 people worldwide have at least heard of South Bend, where they have not heard about it before.
It was voiced during the public meeting that some of the concerns mentioned in the Facebook chatter, was about how distracting the flying man type of signs were. The Commission has questions as to how many accidents or traffic snarls had ensued based on this type of signage, and none were noted.
It was further determined that it appeared that the complaints may have been focused on the type of business that one of the signs advertises for, marijuana, and that it was more of a moral question that the Planning Commission was asked to answer. They decided that it was not in their purview to regulate morality on the community.
It was further recognized that marijuana is a new business in the area, a legal commodity in Washington State, and that marijuana retailers have a right to advertise. And with the current regulations governing the marijuana industry it prevents the Planning Commission or the South Bend City Council to disallow advertising content on the signs, meaning that if they had decided to make it against a city ordinance to use the word marijuana, they would also have to disallow advertising items like "seafood" or "burgers".
The Planning Commission did agree that the current city sign regulations (Chapter 16.65 of the South Bend City Code) had not been updated since the 1970's and should at least be brought up to date.
The Commission also admitted that to the best of their knowledge the city has been lax on enforcing sign regulations and had more concerns in the past years about sandwich board advertisements that impeded pedestrian traffic as opposed to the waving of tall flag advertisements.
It was also noted that in past years, other South Bend business have used "flying man" type signs to attract customers, and it was not a concern then.
"My signage shouldn't be against any ordinances that exist, because the city puts their Labor Day banner up every year," said Sheila Haerling of Willapa Bar and Grill.
Jerry Duckworth of Jessie's Seafood notes that the signs on his lot help promote his business as well at the of the Fish and Chip's diner just outside.
"We will get it sorted and move on," said Duckworth.
If it is a matter of the type of business that the signs promote, it was suggested that perhaps the community should use the sign as a way of educating those concerned about the new industry, or any business that advertises utilizing this type of signage.
"Having the man up impacts my business," said Andrew Tessier of Growers Outlet. "It impacts it in a positive way. He gets people to stop in town and spend money, who normally would be passing through. So it helps both my business and the community."
Tessier has attempted to make his flying man a little more politically correct for those who may not like the advertisement. He has gathered the flying hands together to make it less "flighty" and less of a distraction, as well as taken off the face that was once on the long green tube.
"I am willing to speak to anyone who might have a suggestion and they can contact me at HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com. I do not like making people upset, that is not what I am about." said Tessier.
The Planning Commission will look closer at the current sign regulations and bring their suggestions to the City Council. The next City of South Bend Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for June 9, at 5:30 pm at South Bend City Hall.