|Tue, Dec 10, 2013 12:24 AM
|Issue of November 27, 2013
September 11, 2013 | 08:41 AM
Several business owners attended the Corydon Planning and Zoning board meeting Sept. 3 to voice their opinions about a six-month-old sign ordinance.
Some owners spoke out against the part of the ordinance that deals with sandwich-board signs, while others spoke out against the use of light-emitting diode (LED) signs.
Elaine Scott, owner of Nails by Elaine, located on the second floor of The Emporium building, said she's had a sandwich-board sign in front of her business for approximately 14 years and was recently told that she had to move the sign indoors outside of business hours to comply with the ordinance. She said she was told she could face a fine of $300 per day if the sign, which is about six feet tall, isn't put away at night.
"I'm very upset about that because it eliminates 75 to 80 percent of my advertising," Scott told the board. "People drive by and see the sign and know where I am."
Board president Glenn Thienel said the fine was up to $300 per day; Scott said she assumed the fine would be the maximum. Scott said she's removed the sign and was at the meeting to complain about the ordinance.
"People have no way to know where I am unless they see my sign," said Scott, adding that she doesn't own the building where her business is located.
But even if she did own the building, she said she couldn't put a sign on it because The Emporium building is on the National Register of Historic Places, which has strict guidelines on what can and can't be done to buildings on the registry.
Thienel asked specifically what Scott was requesting and she replied that she would like to have the sign out "24-7."
Thienel denied the request.
"That is against the ordinance," he said. "When the sun goes down, it has to come in and, when the sun comes up, you can put it out again. That's the rules; that's the ordinance."
Board member Jeff Thomas pointed out that the design of the sandwich sign was specifically made to be put up and taken down easily.
Tracy Webber, co-founder of Develop Downtown Corydon and a former downtown business owner, was next to speak at the meeting.
According to its Facebook page, DDC is a volunteer committee focused on enhancing the "Downtown Corydon" experience. Its goal is to preserve and highlight the town's "rich Hoosier history while creating a modern downtown area with new and exciting restaurants and small businesses."
Webber said she was speaking on behalf of several business owners who had contacted her about the ordinance and recommended that there be better communication with business owners and not just have notification come through legal advertising in The Corydon Democrat (legal notices printed in the newspaper also appear on the newspaper's website, corydondemocrat.com).
"I would like to recommend that you help notify (businesses) of upcoming changes or possible votes so the business owners can have a voice and be able to represent their business," Webber said.
Thienel explained that the ordinance was signed in February and that there were three public meetings and an advertised hearing that no one attended.
The ordinance ran in its entirety in this newspaper twice and appeared on the newspaper's website, and a public hearing was held before the Corydon Town Council. Again, no one spoke out against the ordinance, Thienel said.
"If no one shows up at the first meeting, uh, whatever you're doing, you're not notifying any of us," Sherry Graham, manager of Great Clips in Corydon, said. "We don't get the paper."
Webber reiterated that businesses in the downtown district want to work better with community leaders to make the downtown thrive.
Thienel pointed out that legal matters are advertised in the newspaper as required by state law.
"You're supporting The Democrat, then. You are saying we should buy The Democrat paper to find out what's going on in this town," Graham said to Thienel.
"No, ma'am. That's ridiculous," he replied.
Town attorney Chris Byrd explained that state law requires publication in the newspaper and, legally, the town did everything it was required to do.
"That is what the law requires when you are having a public meeting, and, on this ordinance, it was required," Byrd said. "They followed the letter of the law when they had the meeting."
"For me, it was handled very bad," Graham said. "We had our (sandwich-board) signs out for a year and a half and all of a sudden, no warning? We're trying to get our property owner to get signs up so we don't have to. I don't like the way it was handled. I just don't.
"It hurt our business. You didn't prepare us ... we have a business permit, so why couldn't you mail us a letter and say, hey, we're having a meeting?"
"This is the way the state of Indiana says we need to do it," Thienel said.
Lisa Long, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, said her organization would be happy to disseminate meeting information, not just to the businesses in Corydon, but also to the almost 950 businesses in Harrison County.
"We could do that on our website, through e-mail," Long said, adding that the Chamber notifies its board of directors of the planning and zoning meetings, as well as Chamber members that may have a vested interest in those meetings.
Thomas said Long's suggestion was a good one, and Thienel agreed, adding that he didn't know when other ordinances or changes in ordinances might be coming.
Dennis Denton, co-owner of Denny's Carpets, brought up a concern he had regarding a scrolling LED sign he was forced to take down from inside the front window of his business along S.R. 62. He said he spent $3,500 on the sign and was told he would have to remove the sign from his window because it violated the ordinance.
The town has had a moratorium on LED signs since November 2008 after dentist Dawn Durbin replaced a free-standing sign with an LED sign. At the time, it was the sixth such type of sign in Corydon and its two-mile fringe. Since then, another LED sign was allowed at Sears along Old S.R. 135 under the stipulation that it not blink or scroll (the sign no longer falls under the town's jurisdiction, however).
Thienel advised Denton that the company that sold the sign did not have a license to do so inside town limits. Carolyn Hofelich, executive secretary of the planning and zoning commission, told Denton that, if he wanted his money back, he could do so and she would help him in that regard.
"You are serving the people, and it seems to me that (the planning and zoning board) are more historical than you are serving the citizens of the county," Graham said.
"That's our intent, to preserve the downtown district," board member Fred Cammack said.
"Well, you guys are kind of one-sided on your opinions," Denton said.
Thomas said the commission would take the suggestions from the business leaders under advisement in case something like a sign ordinance happens in the future.
"We've purchased from you without a flashing sign," Thienel told Denton. "We're really happy; you are a wonderful person, your rates are fine and it had nothing to do with a flashing sign. It had to do with good people who take care of you, and that's what I believe in as a customer.
"We're here to serve you and do what we can, but we have to have rules, too," he said. "I know, as a teacher for 39 years, people wanted rules and parents wanted rules, until it's their kid. And then when it was their kid, they came and they complained about the rules and wanted the rules changed because it affected them ... but we have to have rules."
"We executed against the ordinance. Like it or not, notified or not, that is what has occurred. We didn't break protocol; we followed protocol. We sense the disappointment, and we'll take a look at that," Thomas said.
"We're not trying to run anybody out of business. We just don't want the downtown to look like Gatlinburg (Tenn.); we want it to look like the first state capital," Cammack said.
One area that the board agreed to look into were static (non-changing) LED signs. The ordinance, as it stands, bans LED signs that simply read "Open."
Dr. Len Waite, who was on the committee who helped draw up the sign ordinance but is no longer on the commission, said later in the meeting that the static LED signs were not intended to be banned.
A new committee made up of Thienel, Thomas and Long will look at the ordinance to see what other changes, if any, should be made.