Jan. 15, 2019 | Sign Code Updates, Commission Work Plans and More
Posted on 01/23/2019

The Newcastle City Council roundups offer a digest of notable items for those who can't make it to the regular meetings. Listen to the audio from the Jan. 15, 2019, meeting here and view the meeting agenda packet here. View past City Council roundups at newcastlewa.gov/councilrecaps.


Some major updates are coming to the code that regulates signage in our community. A 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision is driving jurisdictions to re-evaluate their sign regulations to ensure they don’t violate the freedom of speech.

In Reed v. Gilbert, the Supreme Court’s decision determined that a code that makes any distinctions based on the sign’s message is unlawfully content based. This position had the effect of making many sign codes across the United States, including Newcastle’s, unconstitutional. It’s not uncommon to see codes with certain content-based regulations for real estate, political and garage sale signs.

In March 2017, city staff introduced a model sign code drafted in response to the Reed decision. The model code was crafted, in part, by Newcastle’s own Community Development Director Steve Osguthorpe, and was made available to all jurisdictions as a baseline to ensure their regulations conformed with the Supreme Court decision. 

Under Director Osguthorpe’s leadership, the city’s all-volunteer Planning Commission spent several months gathering public feedback and recommending specific changes to ensure the code reflected Newcastle values. The Newcastle City Council got its first look at the proposed code during its Jan. 15 meeting.

There are a number of changes to the existing code, but one of the most noteworthy is the provision that regulates a sign based on the durability of its materials, rather than the sign’s message or content. Signs that are made of non-durable materials, such as paper, are considered temporary signs. The code limits the size and height of temporary signs. There are also restrictions on temporary signs' placement in landscaped areas. Signs made of materials that are considered permanent (wood or hard plastic, for example) are subject to more restrictive permitting requirements.

Under the proposed code, portable signs, which include A-frames or sandwich boards, would be considered a permanent sign, since they’re likely made of durable materials. A permanent portable sign would require a permit and be subject to certain standards. This has caused concern among the real estate industry and efforts to put up wayfinding open house signage. In its final recommendation, the Planning Commission suggested a provision that would allow permanent portable signs in residential zones without a permit during daylight hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The City Council is awaiting the city attorney’s opinion on the legality of this particular regulation before taking any further action.

This sign code will regulate signs in Newcastle for years to come. Make your voice heard and let the City Council know what you think about the impact of signage in our community at the next meeting on Feb. 5, when the council will continue reviewing the proposed code.

Resources: Sign Code Agenda Bill (Jan. 15, 2019) | Summary of Proposed Sign Code | Draft of Proposed Sign Code | Sign Code Presentation 


— The Newcastle City Council approved a contract with the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) Regional Jail that will result in reduced costs to the city. The Newcastle Police Department currently has a contract with the Issaquah City Jail for the booking and temporary housing of persons arrested for misdemeanors. However, in the past, if the Issaquah Jail was full, Newcastle would have to book the person into King County Jail or the Regional Justice Center at higher rates. The Issaquah Jail will remain the primary facility used to book misdemeanor defendants, but if it’s unable to accept additional people, Newcastle officers can now send them to SCORE at a lower cost than the King County Jail or Regional Justice Center.

— The city continues to explore all options to preserve the property where a geologic feature known as the DeLeo Wall is located. During public comment, citizens encouraged the city to keep going with those efforts. Later, a citizen presented the city with a modest donation to help offset legal costs associated with the work to protect the area.

— The city’s all-volunteer advisory boards are in for a busy year. The Newcastle City Council approved both the Planning and Community Activities commissions’ 2019 work plans during the meeting.

— The City Council approved verbiage that will appear on residents’ Waste Management bills once the new contract goes into effect. The text will explain the 8.49 street/administrative fee listed on the bill. After a thorough review, the Newcastle City Council approved a new 10-year solid waste collection contract with Waste Management at the July 17, 2018, meeting. Under the new contract, the majority of customers will see a decrease in their rates, while all Newcastle residents and businesses will receive an improved level of service.

During that process, the council also approved an 8.49 percent street/administrative fee that will be added to base collection rates and serve as an additional city revenue source to offset costs associated with the weekly wear and tear the collection trucks put on Newcastle streets. The fee will generate about $150,000 in new revenue annually. Even with the fee, the majority of residential customers will see a decrease in their rates.

— Communications Coordinator Christina Corrales-Toy will work with the Community Activities Commission to update the city’s Communications Strategic Plan. The document, adopted in 2010, serves as a clear, concise framework that outlines how we will communicate with our community. Engaging with residents builds government trust, fosters hometown pride and encourages citizen participation within the community.

— The City Council approved a proclamation declaring February as Children’s Dental Health Month in the City of Newcastle.

The Newcastle City Council wants to hear from you! Members of the public are invited to share thoughts during public hearings or two open public comment periods at meetings. Regular meetings of the City Council occur on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at City Hall, starting at 7 p.m. You can also email your thoughts to councilmembers. To send a message to the entire council, email the city clerk at saram@newcastlewa.gov. You can also email them individually (view all councilmember emails here). 

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