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Sandy to regulate newspaper racks

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SANDY — What is black, white and red all over? Not newspaper racks.

Sandy will likely begin regulating the appearance of newspaper distribution racks to improve the appearance of city streets and improve pedestrian safety. The new ordinance, which the City Council will vote on within two weeks, will place restrictions on the location, colors and design of newspaper racks.

As the city has grown, so has the number of newspaper racks, zoning administrator Brock Armantrout said. Although he said the city does not mind the racks, which distribute newspapers, apartment guides or automobile sales brochures, some of them are designed and placed to act more as billboards.

"We still want to provide for the dissemination of information, but not allow them to work as billboards," Armantrout said.

The new regulations will require the rack colors to blend with the surrounding landscaping. Also, the racks will only be allowed in certain spots along streets and will be required to cluster with other racks. The ordinance, Armantrout said, is modeled after similar laws in San Francisco, New York and Boston, and it does not restrict anyone's right to distribute information.

If they pass the ordinance, Sandy officials will have plenty of company. Salt Lake City already regulates newspaper racks in the downtown business district, while Park City and West Valley City both have citywide newspaper rack laws. The problem for many cities is the bright colors or unusual designs of the racks. USA Today, for example, prefers to use a blue-and-white rack designed to look like a TV, while the Deseret News uses bright blue racks.

While using different racks presents only a minor hassle to larger newspapers or commercial publications, small and independent newspapers will often feel the pinch of having to use a variety of racks in different cities. Salt Lake City Weekly, which uses red racks wherever possible, has been critical of the Salt Lake and Park City ordinances. Having one more city to adapt to, however, will not pose a problem, publisher John Saltas said.

"As long as the ordinance does not infringe on the right of any newspaper to distribute, the cities have a right to regulate," he said.

Concerns from cities have usually revolved around colors, as in Sandy. In the proposed ordinance, the color guidelines require that the racks blend with the surrounding landscape instead of allowing only specific colors. Having such a broad definition could present a problem for the future, Saltas said.

"Color is a taste issue," he said. "They may not want a fracas of every color, but sometimes that could be part of the character."

Determining the allowed colors will depend primarily on the area. Generally, the racks will be earth-toned, because most landscaping is natural, Nick Duerkson, Sandy's communications director, said.

"(The new ordinance) provided a design standard so the racks look like they belong on the street," he said.

E-MAIL: jloftin@desnews.com