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Despite earlier complaints, few attend hearing on sign ordinance

The public was invited last week to tell the Harrison County Advisory Plan Commission what they think about the sign ordinance that was adopted last year. The invitation was extended following numerous complaints some commission members had received about the ordinance.
Of the 10 people attending Thursday night’s meeting, only six of those addressed the plan commission, with a couple of them only asking for clarification. (Harrison County Commissioner Jim Heitkemper also attended the meeting to see what comments were made.)
‘I expected this place to be full,’ said a ‘very, very disappointed’ Bruce Doezema, who lives on the far western edge of Harrison County. ‘This is one of the most unpopular things you could be doing.’
He speculated that others who are opposed to the ordinance had ‘more important things’ to do than attend a meeting.
Because he believes in free speech and property rights, Doezema said he is moving his business, River Valley Builders, to Crawford County, ‘where I don’t have to deal with this, at least not now,’ as Crawford doesn’t have countywide planning and zoning.
‘I understand your concerns,’ said Victor McCauley, who chairs the plan commission. ‘We want you to sell your product.’
The plan commission and staff explained that there is a $15 permit fee for new signs and that most requests are honored. If a sign doesn’t comply with the ordinance, the applicant can apply for a special exception with the Harrison County Board of Zoning Appeals.
Doezema said the restrictions of the ordinance don’t bother him as much as having to go to the planning and zoning office to request the permit.
Plan commission member Jim Klinstiver stepped down from his position to address his peers as a citizen. He cited numerous licenses he carries after properly applying for them.
In response to applicants who said they didn’t have a copy of their property deed that was required to get their sign permit, Klinstiver said, ‘What businessman doesn’t have a copy of his deed? I believe everyone should have one and be able to put their hands on it in five minutes.’
One of the main goals in revising the sign ordinance that had been in place since 1974 was to implement a process for dealing with signs that are dilapidated or left behind when a business closes, he said.
Paul Bary said one of his concerns with the ordinance, as it’s currently written, is responsibility.
‘My contention is the landowner should be responsible for the structure,’ he said, ‘but the writing, color should be up to the owner’ of the business advertised.
County planner Eric Wise said one of the recommended revisions would allow the business owner, in addition to the property owner, to apply for the permit.
But, ‘ultimately the landowner would be responsible for the sign,’ Wise said.
Bary also called it unfair that the county sign ordinance doesn’t apply to the town of Corydon and its two-mile fringe.
‘Nothing we do here applies to Corydon and the two-mile fringe,’ said plan commission member J.R. Eckart, who is also a Harrison County Commissioner. ‘We only have authority over the areas that don’t have their own zoning board.
‘The two-mile (fringe) is suppose to make a transition between the town and agriculture area,’ he said.
The plan commission will take all comments under advisement and make recommended changes to the sign ordinance during their next work session, May 19.
‘There are about six or seven items that need to be addressed to make (the ordinance) user-friendly,’ in addition to Wise’s eight recommendations, McCauley said.
‘We’re trying to make it business as usual,’ he said. ‘Only new (sign owners) have to come in.’
Klinstiver added, ‘None of these things are written in stone. Here we are tonight changing it less than one year (after it was adopted).’
The Harrison County Board of Commissioners will have to approve any revisions to the ordinance.
In other matters, the plan commission sent two special exception requests on to the BZA with favorable recommendations. One is for a dog kennel (maximum capacity six dogs) on S.R. 64 east of New Salisbury, between Walk Drive and Spring Branch Road, and the other is for a firearms sales and backhoe businesses on Rooster Church Road.
The BZA will decide on the requests at its next meeting, May 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Room of the Harrison County Court House.