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Public invited again, to have a say in sign ordinance

The public should accept the Harrison County Advisory Plan Commission’s invitation to attend next week’s meeting as a sign that it truly wants input before amending an unpopular ordinance that was adopted last year.
‘We need to revisit the entire (sign) ordinance,’ said Victor McCauley, who chairs the plan commission.
That will be done at the plan commission’s next meeting, May 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Room of the Harrison County Court House.
The plan commission sought public input when it was finalizing the proposed ordinance, but few citizens attended meetings to ask questions or voice concerns.
Last July, the Harrison County Board of Commissioners adopted the plan commission’s proposed sign ordinance.
It wasn’t until about five months after the ordinance was adopted ‘ as the deadline approached for filing for a free sign permit ‘ that sign owners reacted. Many said they were not aware that an ordinance had been drafted in early 2004.
At the plan commission’s April 7 meeting, Joe Martin tried to get a motion passed that would have asked the board of commissioners to rescind the sign ordinance so the plan commission could start over.
‘I voted for (the ordinance) because I thought existing signs would be ‘grandfathered in,’ ‘ said Martin, who later admitted he probably didn’t read the ordinance ‘as closely as I should have … It’s just one more hoop someone has to jump through.’
McCauley clarified that they are protected by the grandfather rule, but those owners are still required to complete the permit application so that their signs are documented with the planning and zoning office.
Vice chair Larry Ott said there are a lot of other permits people have to obtain from the planning and zoning office, such as when they make electrical improvements or build an addition to their house.
‘A lot of things in it (now) will still be in there (when it’s revised),’ he said. ‘Don’t chuck the whole ordinance.’
Jim Klinstiver, who has the most seniority on the plan commission, did not support rescinding the ordinance.
‘You’d be throwing out two years of serious work,’ he said. ‘It’s for your own protection that you document it … If I had a sign, I’d be in today to get a permit to know it’s good.’
He asked Martin if he was ‘going to bow down to a half dozen people in the county.’
‘I don’t feel like doing two more years of work’ on a new ordinance, he added.
McCauley said in listening to complaints from Harrison Countians, ‘I didn’t hear any comments that were really out of the ordinary … ‘
Eric Wise, the county planner, presented a list of eight points of interest that could lead to changes. ‘They address most of the concerns I’ve heard,’ he said.
After more discussion, a motion was made and passed to accept public input at the May 5 meeting.
A total of 203 permits had been issued as of the first of the month, Wise said, with another 20 applications to review.
‘If anyone has any ideas on how to make (the sign ordinance) better, they should contact me (at 738-8927) or come to the meeting on May 5,’ Wise said.

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