A Nevada County church has been commanded to remove two signs facing Highway 49, one of which simply reads “Support Our Troops” on top of an image of a United States flag.
The directive comes from the Nevada County Planning Department, which has deemed the sign “a non-conforming use and must be removed,” according to a Dec. 17 letter sent to the church’s property owner.
“(W)e have received an outpouring of compliments and support for the banners,” said Pastor Jeff Alaways of Simple Truth Church in an email to The Union.
“It’s beautiful at night, also. Daily, people in the county contact us and thank us for cleaning up the eyesore and supporting our troops.”
Simple Truth Church leases the building at 10018 Combie Road that was previously the home of Gateway Realty, which erected what the county designated a “pole sign.” After the property was sold to Auburn-based Milco Development last year, the space was subsequently leased to the church in April, said Milco CEO John Miller.
“When we leased the building, we inherited a dilapidated sign that advertised Gateway Realty, to whom we sublease part of the office,” Alaways said. “They still occupy that corner, along with us.”
Church parishioners banded together for several days to clean the grounds and the building and put a fresh coat of paint on everything, “including that old sign,” Alaways noted.
“We were told that the sign was placed there 35-plus years ago and that it has been an ‘eyesore’ for several years,” he stated.
Two banners were placed over the old sign, both 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall, according to Alaways. The top banner displays “Simple Truth” and notes the church’s website, www.simpletruthlive.com. The other sign, which occupies the bottom half of what was once Gateway Realty’s space on the sign, endorses support of U.S. military service men and women.
“We, as a church, pray for our troops every Sunday and project photos of those soldiers we know who are on active duty, all of whom are from Nevada County,” Alaways said. “We also send care packages to soldiers stationed all over the world. We support our troops and thought that the banner would be fitting because folks in Nevada County have always been patriotic and support our troops.”
But regulations on signage dictates that no changes or alterations to an existing sign can occur without first obtaining approval from the Nevada County Planning Department, noted Planning Director Brian Foss in the Dec. 17 letter.
“It’s really a shame because it’s a beautiful sign. Who would want to take that down?” said Robert Dougherty, a member of the church. “These guys lose their arms and legs, and we can’t even support them with a sign.”
Foss also noted that Gateway Realty was grandfathered into the county’s 2000 sign ordinance by the state’s pre-existing business code, which allows for a period of up to seven years for a sign to come into compliance with a local ordinance — meaning that the original sign fell out of compliance in 2007.
“In order to avoid enforcement action, we ask that you voluntarily comply and remove the sign at your earliest convenience,” Foss wrote, setting a Jan. 3 deadline for the property owner or church to inform him of their intent.
The church is requesting that Milco respond to the county and direct county personnel to communicate with the church, so a church representative can make an appointment with the county to ascertain how to bring the banners into compliance, Alaways said.
“If that is going to be possible,” he said.
The Union was unable to reach Foss or anyone in the county’s planning department Thursday and Friday, as most of the county’s offices were closed due to furloughs until Monday.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.