Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, The owners of Cheers to You Nutrition found themselves discouraged by a time-consuming sign approval process in Rancho Vistoso. The neighborhood association grants approval for business signage in the Safeway shopping center at Tangerine Road and Rancho Vistoso Boulevard.

Business signage has become a hot-button issue in Oro Valley.

Some business owners would say it's not easy to navigate Oro Valley's development review process.

For one business in Oro Valley's Rancho Vistoso, the process proved more difficult.

Zoning requirements in Rancho Vistoso allow the homeowners association to have control over commercial signage in the area. That was a surprise to business owners Kevin and Jean Culver, who run Cheers to You Nutrition in the Safeway shopping center at Tangerine Road and Rancho Vistoso Boulevard.

"We chose this area because we like it how it looks, we respect that," said Kevin Culver.

The Culvers have been trying to get the Vistoso Community Association architecture review committee to approve a sign for their business since they opened earlier this year.

But, with the majority of the board out of town, their wait was compounded. Their request sat in limbo because the board did not have enough members for a quorum.

"There's no sense of urgency there, but there's a business here," Culver said.

Businesses within the boundaries of the Vistoso Community Association must have signs reviewed and approved by the association's board before taking the approval to the town. In effect, the process adds another layer of review.

Association review isn't completely out-of-the ordinary. It can happen in any planned-area development or shopping center with a master sign agreement within Oro Valley.

If a shopping center has a master sign agreement, all new signage has to follow the regulations. New tenants need approval from shopping center management before getting final approval from the town for their signs.

The same process holds for some master-planned communities like Rancho Vistoso, with the added layer of an advisory board representing the homeowners association for businesses to navigate.

Kevin Culver said he was dismayed at the additional level of regulation, and what he sees as rigidity in the sign code in Rancho Vistoso.

"We chose this area because it's beautiful here, but it's a little bit stiff," Culver said.

The Culvers recently were granted approval from the HOA to install a sign. They said the HOA's management company, Lewis Management, was able to contact the board members individually and get remote approval for their sign application.

Jena Carpenter, with Lewis Management, said the Culvers' sign took additional time because their proposal sought to use a material that's not allowed, according to signage guidelines. Cheers to Your Health wanted to use an acrylic material instead of the nonferrous metals allowed under Rancho Vistoso rules. The approval required a variance, Carpenter said.

"If it's a cookie-cutter proposal, we usually get things turned around in a couple of weeks," she noted.

Carpenter said once the Culvers provided additional information to show the sign would match up with the standards, she was able to send their proposal to the board members for approval.

The HOA recognizes the sign code can be a challenge for some business owners, and has plans to revise the standards.

"It's something we're working really hard to bring up to date," Carpenter said.

Oro Valley, too, has been moving on plans to revise its sign code, through a series of meetings of a task force assembled to write a recommendation for the town council to consider. A recommendation is expected before the town council at its Sept. 15 meeting. The proposed changes would not affect business signs in areas subject to master-sign agreements or planned-area developments.

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