Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13, 2010 Planning Commission Sends Controversial Sign Ordinance To City Council for Approval or Rejection

The Morristown Planning Commission met this afternoon. Members are (Mayor) Sami Barile, Jim Beelaert, Katy Tindall Klose, Homer Harrell, Kelley Hinsley, Jack Kennerly, (Councilmember) Frank McGuffin, Rose Parella, and Bill Thompson.

The big item that brought a crowd to the city council chambers was discussion of a new sign ordinance for the City of Morristown. Despite a crowd in attendance, Chairman Beelaert stated that he would limit public comments to 10 people at 3 minutes each for a total of 30 minutes.

No one spoke in favor of the sign ordinance.  Numerous businessmen, including Steve and Jerry Isaacs, Steve Mills, Richie Broyles, Greg Hurst, Martin Daniel, and Nick Davenport spoke against the ordinance or parts of the ordinance.  Some commented that they had only recently learned that there was a new sign ordinance under consideration, and several of those pleaded for the commission to hold off on a vote until there could be more time for input from business people and the community.

There were business people who noted that signs were the lifeblood of their business--providing product and price information to draw customers in.

There were comments about the size and height of signs that are allowed.

Realtors and auctioneers expressed concerns about being unable to place signs in public rights-of-way as is allowed under the current sign ordinance with posting of a bond and placement of stickers on the signs.

Constitutional issues were raised.  Attorney Mary Ferrara, who drafted the ordinance, stated that constitutional issues prohibit government from allowing some signs in rights-of-way but not others. Government signs that are geared to public safety (traffic signs) or governmental actions (zoning notices) are, of course, permitted in rights-of-way.

Several speakers claimed that the new sign ordinance is overly restrictive and unfriendly to business. 

Sami Barile made the motion to approve the new sign ordinance and to send it on to City Council for consideration. Barile's motion included a provision that the ordinance would not be enforced until January 2011.

Here's the vote: Barile: YES
                        Beelaert: NO
                        Klose: NO          
                        Harrell: YES
                        Hinsley: YES
                        Kennerly: YES
                        McGuffin: NO
                        Parella: NO
                        Thompson: YES
The last time there was a vote on this issue, there was a 4-4 tie vote (Close was absent). With Close present and voting NO today, many thought that her NO vote would kill the new sign ordinance.  However, Kelley Hinsley apparently changed his previous NO vote to a YES vote today, resulting in approval and recommendation of the new sign ordinance to the city council.

Prior to casting her vote, Katy Klose made some very good points about getting more citizen and business input first and not being in such a hurry, particularly since the new sign ordinance will not take effect or be enforced until January 2011. Klose's suggestions echoed the sentiment of most of the business people in attendance, but they fell on deaf ears.

No comments: