Sign ordinance sent to attorney

Gray Hughes

The Hill City Planning and Zoning Commission took the next step to updating its electronic sign policy.

At its regular meeting held on Monday, the commissioners present unanimously voted 4-0 to send the revisions to city attorney Frank Bettmann for his comments. Commissioner Rollie Noem was not present at the meeting.

Before the vote Hill City business owner and long-time resident Vic Alexander expressed some displeasure with the board stemming from comments made at a previous meeting regarding the change to the sign ordinance.

“I’ve been bothered since last meeting by some terminology used at the last part of the meeting,” Alexander said. “We need to structure things so it gets the approval of the city council in addition to you all.”

Alexander said the commission at the last meeting wanted to keep doing things “the right way.” Alexander said his understanding of what the commission is supposed to be doing is the work of the people and not for personal gain.

If something the commission does appears as if it will not pass muster at the city council, the commission should take a look at what they are doing and why they are doing it, Alexander added.

Dale Householder, chairman of the commission, thanked Alexander for his comments. Hill City mayor Kathy Skorzewski asked Alexander if he could make the same comments at the next Hill City Common Council meeting.

After Alexander’s comments, the board started working on and discussing the sign ordinance revision. One of the biggest changes to the ordinance would be for the animated sign definition.

The new definition for animated signs would read: “a sign or display that uses movement or the appearance of movement through the use of patterns of light, changes in color or light intensity or through any other method; except for the scrolling of a static message or scene onto or off a sign board in one direction per message.”

Dani Schade, development service coordinator for Hill City, explained this definition would allow for the electronic reader board signs seen in Hill City at places such as the school, Super 8 Motel and Krull’s Market.

New definitions for digital signs (signs on a digital screen), electronic message sign or center (also known as reader board signs), feather flags and others were also added to the packet that would be sent off to Bettmann for his review.

A severability clause was also added, which reads, “if one or more sections of this sign code are found to be invalid, the remaining sections stand on their own and are still valid.”

A clause was also added to the maintenance, repair and removal section of the ordinance, which states once any sign’s ad copy has deteriorated by 50 percent as determined by the code official or is in non-working condition, the owner, person or firm using the sign would have to make the sign conform to the code.

A feather flag with no ad copy was added to the types of signs that would be exempt by the ordinance.

This possibility raised some concerns by members of the commission and those in the audience.

Connie Wolters, a member of the planning and zoning commission, said she thought the entire reason for the sign ordinance revision is to protect the appearance of the downtown. Having multiple feather flags, she said, could ruin this.

“I don’t know where they would put them, though,” countered Schade.

Alexander was concerned that the limit of three feather flags with copy per property could be limiting.

Since he owns several downtown properties, many of which stand next to each other, Alexander wanted to know what constituted a property. Little parts in the code that limit what he can do with property makes a difference, Alexander said.

Schade said, if needed, Alexander could come to planning and zoning and get variances if he needs more on his properties.

Members of the commission worked to come up with a more agreeable term.

“We can call them businesses,” said Ron Walker, a member of the commission.

Alexander said he would be fine with that change.

Householder said the board should do “businesses/properties,” to which the other members of the commission agreed.

“We need to keep in mind what is best for the community at large,” Skorzewski said.

After that discussion, the commission voted to send the ordinance revision to Bettmann for his comments and changes.

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