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Don't sacrifice beauty, charm for a sign

My Opinion

September 18, 2013 | 09:51 AM

The Corydon Planning and Zoning Commission walks a fine line when it comes to preserving what many people, including tourists, enjoy about historic downtown Corydon and what retailers want in terms of getting people, including tourists, in their stores. Unfortunately, the line isn't exactly straight.

One second the line favors the tourist industry; the next it serves people who call Harrison County their home. And watching from the sidelines are people who want to see the downtown thrive while also keeping its quaint charm.

Question of the Week
Do you agree there should be an ordinance detailing the size of signs?
Earlier this month at a meeting of the commission, several business owners aired their concerns about Corydon's revamped sign ordinance, which had been in place for about six months. Some business owners said they should have been notified that a possible change in the ordinance was coming. One person was upset that the ordinance requires her to remove her sandwich-board sign when she isn't open, and others were upset that scrolling LED signs were no longer allowed. (Actually, they haven't been allowed since 2008; the ordinance only finalized a moratorium on the issue.)

Regarding the first complaint, the explanation from the town's attorney, Chris Byrd, during the meeting was spot-on. The commission did exactly what it was supposed to do as required by law by advertising the ordinance in its entirety, twice, in this newspaper. It also placed, as it always does, in the front window of Corydon's Town Hall a note of its public meeting and topics to be discussed. Also, as the reporter who covers the Corydon Town Council and its planning and zoning commission, I wrote several stories about the new ordinance as the commission tried to hash out the ordinance's details and how it would work in our town. After the commission came up with the ordinance and multiple public hearings were held, the ordinance was passed on to the Corydon Town Council, where another public hearing was held.

The only people I recall ever attending any of those the meetings were folks who had complaints about other things, like tall grass or a property-line dispute or to request zoning variances.

It appeared as though not a single business owner took it upon himself or herself to find out what was going on in their local government. Not one. Then, six months later — and because the ordinance now affects them — they care and claim ignorance as their excuse for why they believe the notification process is flawed.

One person at the meeting questioned the commission president, Glenn Thienel, about running the ordinance in this newspaper, asking if he's just trying to support The Corydon Democrat, and if she's supposed to buy this newspaper to find out what's going on in this town.

Thienel was only pointing out that this newspaper is the only accepted publication the town is required to place public notices. We have a section of the Classifieds dedicated to legal/public notices.

But, from our standpoint, one of the main points of the newspaper's existence is to inform the public about what's going on in their communities. We go to the meetings so those who can't attend will know what is going on. We have a responsibility to invest in our communities. Sometimes that means going to a school board meeting, a town board meeting or a county council or commissioner meeting. Residents and business owners alike should take it upon themselves to place their finger on the pulse of what's going on and not rely on someone to spoon feed them information.

Regarding scrolling LED signs, the only way to get all of the information from a sign is to sit and wait for the entire message to be displayed. There are a couple of LED signs in Corydon that are "grandfathered" in or are outside the town limits. Aesthetically, they aren't pleasing to look at and people rarely get an entire message. If someone is driving by and attempts to read the LED sign, then the sign becomes a traffic hazard.

The bottom line is signs are like quarterbacks: they get too much credit for a win and too much credit for a loss. If a business does well and has a large or flashy LED sign, then it might be perceived that the sign helped the business succeed; if the business tanks after a year, then the blame might be placed unjustifiably on the sign's size.

People and products are the driving factors whether or not a business thrives. If you have a product or a service people want, they'll find you. If you treat your customers well, they'll find you. And if you offer a good price, they'll find you.

Everyone wants to see downtown Corydon's businesses thrive, but it shouldn't happen by sacrificing the beauty and charm that's been preserved here for more than 200 years.

Twitter: @_alanstewart

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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 ē 1-812-738-2211 ē email