By setting up a simple sign down the street from his Edmonds bookstore, James Spangler is technically breaking the law. It's a move that could prove quite costly.

"The fines could be $100 a day," he said. "It's kind of ridiculous."

In August, the Edmonds City Council banned sandwich board signs on sidewalks in the downtown area. Spangler and other small business owners have defied City Hall and have continued putting them out.

"The idea that the signs should be removed entirely is just very shortsighted," said Spangler.

The city was responding to complaints from people who said the signs clutter up the quaint downtown. People have complained that they get in the way of pedestrians with walkers or wheelchairs. There are also concerns that if someone gets hurt, the city could be held liable.

"They're totally unnecessary," said former Edmonds City Councilwoman Natalie Shippen.

She thinks the signs are just ugly. Shippen has lived in Edmonds for 73 years and likens them to litter. She believes businesses can do just fine without the signs.

"Edmonds has existed and flourished off and on for years, and they didn't need sidewalk signs," Shippen said.

Spangler argues the signs are critical, especially as he heads into the holiday shopping season. His bookshop sits just 90 feet off the main drag, but that might as well be a million miles if no one knows he exists. The sign, he said, puts him on the map. Without it, his business drops by more than 20 percent.

"They have valid points, but we can't survive without these signs," he said. "People have stopped by, and told me that they wouldn't have known we were here if not for the sandwich board."

Late last week, the city decided not to enforce the sign ordinance for 120 days. It will allow merchants to get through the holidays and give the city time to determine which direction it wants to turn.