Tucson dithers over illuminated signs

The opening of a new movie theatre in Tucson has become a contentious matter. At issue are six large illuminated signs that are part of the project and that the local council is denying permits for. That may seem like a minor issue, but the debate over the illuminated signs quickly becomes one over whether Tucson is safe place for investors.

The Tucson Renewal project has been the subject of city scrutiny since 2001. Every year the city council has reviewed and approved it. With regards to the movie theater it approved specific plans for site and even the wiring for the illuminated signs in question.

As Tucson Renewal has evolved, the city also has been struggling to craft coherent rules on illuminated signs. Time after time, it has declared a policy only to contradict it later. Understandably that has infuriated Joseph Clay, the local judge. Recently, Clay upheld the ban on new illuminated signs and yet allowed other projects to proceed because they already had received sign permits.

The council's efforts to halt new illuminated signs, is laudable but Tucson Renewal installed its illuminated signs with repeated council approval. City lawyer David Salisbury and his staff are overreaching in concluding that Tucson Renewal is not viable because it hasn't received a final sign permit. If four years of city approvals and the huge investments based on them do not constitute viability then nothing does.

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