Of mannequins and merchandise
BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge merchants are hoping town officials will relax some of the regulations regarding outdoor displays and signs that store owners and previous councils worked hard to put in place more than a decade ago.
The regulations limit the size and types of signs that can be displayed in windows and ban such things as mannequins, sandwich boards, temporary tents and other outdoor displays. They were established in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when merchants routinely hung T-shirts from balconies and placed boxes of sales items on sidewalks, giving the town a less-than-favorable image in the eyes of residents, resort chamber officials and visitors.
“Past councils put a lot of time into these regulations,” said Mayor Sam Mamula. “These just didn’t happen.”
Now, merchants want to change the rules, saying the severity of the regulations are making Main Street appear sterile and without character. Additionally, merchants argue, outdoor displays could help boost sales tax revenue, which saw another downturn in April.
Town planner Chris Neubecker presented town council members with a list of items merchants would like to address, including outdoor displays of merchandise, neon and open house signs, remote radio broadcasts, temporary tents, sandwich boards, banners, holiday lights and “going out of business” signs. Council members addressed some of those issues at a Tuesday afternoon work session that attracted about 40 merchants.
Merchants in favor of relaxing the outdoor display regulations said they would like to be allowed to place items outside their stores – on private property – to let people know the stores are open and to provide would-be customers with an idea of what merchandise is available.
“This weekend, we put a $400 skirt on a mannequin, and we sold three of them,” said Doug Miner of Canary in a Clothes Mine. “The buzzword on the street is T-shirts and timeshares. Sales tax revenue is down. Do you want us to fold up and leave?”
Council members said they don’t want to lose local business, but they don’t want town looking like a garage sale, either. And they realize something needs to be done to buck the dip in retail sales tax revenue.
“The biggest issue is the survivability of businesses on Main Street,” said Councilmember Dave Hinton. “Retail sales were down 30 percent in April. That’s the 15th or 16th consecutive month of declines. That’s a trend. That’s a problem.”
But it’s impossible to legislate good taste.
“I find it interesting that merchants said they didn’t want animation to turn downtown into a Disneyland – this will make you the Disneyland of the 23rd century,” Mamula said.
Town council members said it would be difficult to specify what relaxed regulations would and wouldn’t permit – and then it would be almost impossible to enforce.
“You write this up and say “one mannequin, one sign,’ and I’ll guarantee you there will be two mannequins, then three, then one will be dressed up like a clown,” Mamula said. “There is no competitive advantage if everyone looks the same, if everyone’s trying to one-up each other. We’ve gone through this. It was insane.”
Much of the problem could come down to trying to regulate taste.
“We need to be careful,” Hinton said. “Your $400 skirt might be OK, but someone else’s 99-cent shirt might not be. I don’t think that in times of trouble we should revert back to things that weren’t good.”
“Sure, there are a couple of mannequins on Main Street,” said Gary Booker. “And there’s a mermaid floating around. But that seems to be status quo. Chris (Neubecker) comes out and scowls at someone and goes back in his office. It seems to work.”
Council members will discuss neon signs, temporary tents, sandwich board signs and holiday lights at its next meeting, July 9.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or email@example.com.
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