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Sign issues on council agenda

Discussion offered on the size, display time for policital signs; Hours of use for electronic message boards considered

November 20, 2012
Anne Blankenship ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

The City Council of Webster City was scheduled Monday night to review proposed changes to sign ordinances, but concern by a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission led the council put the vote on hold and offer suggestions to the commission.

City Manager Ed Sadler said the commission had been reviewing the sign ordinance for several months. They brought a proposed changes to the council, but just before the meeting Monday night, Sadler said a text was received the chairman of the commission, Steve Struchen, that the matter deserved more review. Sadler said Struchen also looked to the council for further direction and suggestions concerning signs.

Part of the discussion involved political signs. Earlier this fall, a reminder was issued about the 45-day limit for political signs. The council received comments from a local citizen about whether or not the city had the right set policy concerning the length of display time. Sadler said the City Attorney Gary Groves issued the opinion that the city could indeed set the rules for political signs.

Mayor Janet Adams and Councilwoman Linda Conaway both said they felt the 4-foot by 8-foot signs were too big to be used in residential areas.

"I agree that the size of the signs is definitely something we should look at," Conaway said.

"I think we also need to look at the length of the appearance of the signs. Given the strange political elements that we have in the state of Iowa. The 45-day element is virtually unworkable given the length of campaigning anymore," said Getter. He questioned whether that aspect of the ordinance could be looked at as a nuisance if someone complained.

"If they say there's too many or they obstruct a view, I don't know if we can look at a nuisance provision rather than a time dimension," Getter said.

The other issue discussed concerning signs pertained to electronic signs and the brightness and how they are handled during the night time hours.

City Building Inspector Jared Ruby, who issues sign permits, said the electronic message boards can be set to automatically dim at night. For off-premise advertising signs, the P & Z commission recommended that the signs be turned on at 6 a.m. and off at 10:30 p.m. He said that at this time, he couldn't think of any off-premise signs in the community. All of the electronic signs are on business property.

"I?personally thought that the time that the P&Z set for the on and off for electronic signs was practical,"?said?Conaway. "It isn't any different that what we have with the noise ordinance."

Sadler said he would like to see the off-premise usage better defined.

In other business, the City Council voted to waive $100 of a $200 sump pump late fee on the utility bill for Khamphong Pwithong and Ted Tomashewsky.

Adams said the $100 waiver was in line with what has been done for others making similar requests in the community.

The council also approved a development agreement for Infinity Services LLC.

Sadler said that back in 2009, Webster City Area Development received an offer for five acres of land, including the spec building on Lot 1 of the Southeast Development Park. The offer contained the provision that the city of Webster City would provide tax increment financing. Concensus was given on the matter by the council in September 2009.

Sadler said the sale of the property went through in about a year ago, but the owner, Larry Hinderks, just approached the city last week and asked that the process for a TIF?agreement be started.

By passing the agreement now before the Dec. 1 deadline, the developer won't have to wait two years for his TIP?rebates. City certification of TIF?debt happens only on Dec. 1 of each year, Sadler said.

According to the agreement, Infinity Services will receive TIP?for 10 years, with incremental payments to be made twice a year with the total of payments not to exceed $301,000.

The council also discussed the possibility of live streaming the council meetings on the Internet in addition to broadcasting the meetings on Channel 12.

"If you don't have Mediacom, you can't get see the meetings,"?Sadler said.

The council members asked Sadler to investigate the possibility of streaming audio and video or just audio on the Internet.



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