Homeowners associations are tasked with the unenviable responsibility of maintaining community standards. Personal property appearances, landscape maintenance and dog refuse in common areas fall within their purview; apparently so do banners advertising local businesses.
Foothills Family Dental was not aware of this. Just prior to Easter we received an email order from Rossmar and Graham directing that the banner we’d hung outside our front door thanking our patients for voting us Best Dentist 2012 be removed immediately or we would be fined. We had received approval from the Ahwatukee Foothills News for use of their logo in our banner, and our property manager knew we’d hung it. We thought that was sufficient.
Why would we think that? A five-minute stroll through the four commercial corners on Chandler and Desert Foothills would answer that question. Banners offer food and drink specials, new business services, vacant space availability, oil changes, low-cost checking accounts, large soft drinks, and real estate deals. Banners come in all sizes, colors and locations around businesses. Balloons, sandwich boards and the occasional guy-in-a-suit twirling arrows and wearing sandwich boards round out the advertising methods.
Our order to remove our banner was accompanied by a 38-page copy of city code explaining the do’s and don’ts of banners in Phoenix. And yes, in fairness to Rossmar, our banner was larger than what city code proscribes.
But Rossmar, maybe it’s time to think before acting. Part of maintaining our nice Foothills community should include supporting the businesses that are there specifically for community benefit. The vast majority are small businesses; they do not have budgets for TV or major advertising campaigns. We’ve had several neighborhood business owners stop in our office to ask where we had our banner made. We’ve had several patients stop in or call to thank us for thanking them. Our banner contributes to the sense of community Rossmar purports to foster; taking it down detracts from it.
Homeowners in our community patronize the businesses on the four corners. They enjoy and utilize quality services minutes from home. With so many vacant spaces in every commercial property there, Rossmar should be interested in developing/maintaining businesses, not solely on enforcing rules.
How should Rossmar enforce banner rules while simultaneously promoting the businesses our community uses and helping to fill vacant business spaces? To start a community discussion, we propose that:
1. Rossmar relax its rules and allow businesses in our community to continue advertising as they are already doing.
2. All existing banners, balloons, window advertisements, etc. be grandfathered in as acceptable advertising in our community. It’s already there. We have learned that other businesses in the four corners have been similarly threatened with fines by Rossmar, while others have never been contacted and were not aware Rossmar had any say. Existing advertising could be allowed for a specified period of time, say a year.
3. Rossmar create a small, volunteer committee, to include its board, a few interested homeowners, and a few local business owners, to meet once or twice to establish rules for advertising in our community that will be adhered to by all and not arbitrarily applied. These rules could then be presented to the businesses and maintained as a uniform standard going forward.
Foothills businesses should have input into the advertising rules that affect their existence. We all live and work here; let’s get together and discuss it.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Bob Marra is office manager at Foothills Family Dental.