Concern for clutter of signs in Nevada City goes overboard |

Concern for clutter of signs in Nevada City goes overboard

At first, Planning Commissioner Laurie Oberholtzer’s criticism of a proposed delicatessen in downtown Nevada City – that delicatessens often have signs in the window – struck us as laughable. Painfully laughable, perhaps, but laughable.

We’re not entirely aware of the dangers posed by signs in delicatessen windows, but then again we’re not entrusted with municipal planning. Perhaps there are far greater dangers than any of us had imagined in a sign advertising 16-ounce sodas for 89 cents.

But the more we thought about it, the less we laughed.

The lack of trust demonstrated by the Nevada City Planning Commission in the ability of people to make decisions for themselves is deeply troubling.

One needn’t walk far from the site of the proposed gas station and delicatessen to see all sorts of things – including some signs! – in store windows in downtown Nevada City. Everything from lingerie to New Age books is on display. And everything in every window is certain in these most politically correct of times to offend someone.

Is lingerie acceptable in windows within 500 yards of an elementary school? New Age books in a window where they might be seen by passing churchwomen?

If the planning commission wants to decide on the proper use of store windows, we would expect a full set of rules and regulations on the subject. Governance by whim has no place in City Hall.

That’s not necessary. We occasionally can trust people – even people who don’t sit on the planning commission – to act with good sense. A body of wisdom exists outside the confines of the Nevada City Planning Commission.

Oberholtzer’s concern about visual clutter ordinarily makes good sense, but it’s a hard argument to make in a vibrant commercial district. Downtown isn’t the public library; it’s going to be far more visually raucous than anyplace in town. Some stores may even hang signs painted in colors that offend tender artistic sensibilities.

The possible upshot of all this? Once again, we could end up with a vacant gas station in the middle of historic downtown Nevada City. Now that’s what we want!

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