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PLAY AREA IS COMING; ARCHES ARE GOING

There are two ways of looking at it.

One is to call it the crucifixion of an American icon. The other is to say it's all in a day's work as the city maintains its aggressive policy of keeping Sandy freer than most towns of commercial sign clutter.In any case, the fast-food chain's standard 30-foot arches are coming down on the McDonald's Restaurant at 10550 S. 1300 East, being replaced by a pair of ground-hugging "monument signs" that tower a paltry 6 feet above the curb.

With the arches goes the famous "Billions and billions served" slogan.

"It's not good for our business, that's for sure," complained franchise owner Doug Johnson, who is reluctantly going along with the change as part of a deal he has agreed to with the city. He'll receive a permit to erect a 1,680-square-foot "Playplace" if he razes the arches.

The restaurant was built before Sandy annexed the area, bringing along its stringent sign ordinances that limit the size of street-side advertising. According to state law, the city can't force existing businesses to comply after they're annexed, but those that want to make improvements later don't get a permit unless they meet the sign law's standards.

"That policy is one of the things that make us different from the rest of the valley," said planning director George Shaw. "We won't allow signs just for the sake of allowing signs."

Businesses in Sandy are permitted to put up billboards, but they have to be littler than those generally accepted elsewhere and, in most cases, cannot be mounted on poles. Exceptions are granted for large shopping centers such as South Towne.

"We feel it's important that businesses display logos and such, but we're also interested in seeing a level playing field," said Shaw, noting that other fast-food outlets in the area comply with Sandy's sign laws.

Johnson said this is the only one of his nine Utah franchises facing the loss of its arches, though he noted that a few of the approximately 50 McDonald's in Utah have faced similar restrictions.

One in West Valley City was forced to limit its display, for instance. If the country's biggest burger chain should ever come to Park City - easily the most anti-outdoor-advertising city in Utah - arches would be entirely out of the question.

Chris Wagner, manager of the Sandy restaurant and a McDonald's employee since 1987, said absence of the famous yellow trademark will prove anything but devastating, however, and that the tradeoff will ultimately bring in more customers.

"We're projecting quite an increase with the Playplace," he said, calling Sandy one of the country's "top 10 demographic areas" for a business that features both hamburgers and swing sets.

"There's a very high percentage of children under 12 in this area," said Wagner.