Maricopa City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday that exempts roadside memorials from city codes for signs.

The resolution’s guidelines, previously discussed in a November 2022 meeting, restrict the size of memorials and how long they may stand in a location, in addition to other protocols.

Roadside memorials are markers that commemorate the life of people who died unexpectedly, often as a result of a bicycle, pedestrian or vehicle accident. They range from a small cross or photo at the location to more elaborate markers containing trinkets, plants, lights or even sculptures.

Suggesting leniency for how long markers may stand

During the meeting, council members considered revisions to proposed guidelines. Chief among them was how long markers may stay up.

According to the original proposal, roadside memorials “must not be displayed for more than 45 days from the recognized incident date of the loss of life.” After 45 days, the city could remove the memorial and store it for as long as 14 days until collected by the marker’s owner.

“I was thinking of family and friends of a loved one with a very tragic, tragic loss,” said council member Amber Liermann. “I think 45 days is not an honorable amount of time. I would like to propose a year — that that sign would be able to remain there for a year — to honor the life of that person that was lost in such a tragic way.”

Other council members agreed that memorials should stand for weeks or months longer but with care by those who installed them.

“If it’s a year, it’s got to be maintained,” said City Councilman Bob Marsh. “It can’t get crummy over the bad weather.”

Ultimately, City Council agreed to allow memorials to stand as long as one year if they are well-maintained and labeled with the owner’s contact information. Otherwise, markers may be removed after 45 days and stored by the city for two weeks. During that period, the memorial must be collected by its owner.

Current memorials will be subject to the new policy guidelines.

A roadside memorial sits on east of John Wayne Parkway near Hathaway Avenue on April 19, 2023. The memorial features fresh flowers, prayer candles, a photo and is illuminated at night. Monica D. Spencer/InMaricopa

Considerations for community safety

Safety for mourners, pedestrians and drivers was discussed, as was size and location of memorials.

Council members suggested reducing the proposed size to 24 inches by 24 inches, down from 36 by 36.

“Three (feet) by three (feet) is way too big,” said Council Member Vincent Manfredi. “I think two-foot by two-foot, 24 by 24 (inches), is fine. I think three by three (feet) is a huge monument.”

Mayor Nancy Smith agreed.

“When you actually measure it out, (36 by 36 inches) is very significant,” she said. “(The size) 24 by 24 makes sense to me.”

The proposed policy suggested memorials be “placed in a safe location” outside of street-corner site visibility triangles, to ensure clear visibility for drivers and pedestrians. The size indicated for site visibility triangles is 30 by 30 inches.

Council members agreed with this policy as a safety guideline but also asked about lights on memorials.

“If there were lights placed on these that would impact the ability to safely drive, do you feel like that’s accounted for in the way we’ve written the code?” Smith asked Code Compliance Supervisor Wes Moss, who presented the new policies.

Moss confirmed memorials would be checked for potential safety hazards.

Policies less restrictive than initial proposal

Although they appear limiting, the guidelines are less restrictive than those initially proposed in November 2022.

At the time, the city’s Code Compliance Division suggested standardizing the size and design, as well as ensuring they would be installed by the city’s Traffic Operations Division. Memorials would have been required to be uniformly constructed of aluminum and no more than 15 inches in diameter, with an estimated installation cost of $300.

“Any memorial markers installed without approval or are out of compliance will be allowed to stand for no more than 21 days,” Moss said at the time. “If the markers are identified as hazardous in any way they will be removed immediately.”

Councilmembers at the time requested more leniency in the proposed policies, saying that a year or less for memorials was not enough.

Vincent Manfredi is a co-owner of InMaricopa.