Oro Valley businesses may be able to have outdoor merchandise displays without paying a special fee if code changes continue to move forward to the town council for final approval.

On Monday night, David Williams, the Oro Valley planning division manager, hosted a meeting that allowed local residents and business owners to discuss the proposed changes.

With a small turnout for the afternoon gathering, town officials and staff outnumbered the business owners and residents two to one.

Nonetheless, issues were discussed and concerns were laid out.

Currently, Williams said merchandise displays are not allowed unless a business owner pays $370 for a six-month permit.

Last spring, Williams said the town’s Planning Commission was approached by a representative of the Fry’s Corporation, asking for a code change.

Misti Nowak, the town’s communications administrator, said to be business friendly, the town must consider requests.

“Businesses think it’s an asset to put items out,” she said. “So, we want to put the information out there and see how the community feels about it.”

The Planning Commission has already approved the code amendments, but for the new rules to become official, the town council will have to host a public hearing and vote on the proposal.

In a slide show, Williams gave examples of what could come with code changes. Taking pictures of businesses in Oro Valley, Tucson and Pima County, Williams showed some businesses with smaller displays of plants sitting near the business opening, while other major corporations such as Fry’s and Michael’s take outdoor merchandise displays to an extreme.

Residents in attendance were asked to discuss the draft proposal provided by staff, and if they disagreed completely, to provide alternatives.

John Piccoli, general manager of ACE Hardware, said he’s concerned the town is doing too much for large corporations, and not enough to help the smaller business owners.

“I am concerned about the cost structure,” said Piccoli. “One size doesn’t fit all. You showed a lot of examples of corporate stores. I think it will hurt the little guys.”

Other residents questioned the details of the proposal, noting that vending machines and other common outdoor displays need to be excluded by the requirements set forth in the outdoor display code.

Williams said he will compile the information from Monday’s meeting, and report the results to Interim Town Manager Greg Caton. The discussion is expected to appear on the Sept. 21* town council agenda for a public hearing and vote.

Note: This date was corrected on Aug. 31, 2011, from the original printed story.

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