Billboards, comp plan are on meeting agenda
The Morgan County Planning Commission will hold a special meeting on February 8 at 7 p.m. at the Planning Commission Office. The agenda includes a review of the final draft of the Morgan County Comprehensive Plan and the proposed Billboard Ordinance.
A public hearing on the preliminary draft of the Morgan County Comprehensive Plan took place on Thursday, January 18. The final draft of the Comprehensive Plan was changed to include all submitted public comments, said County Planner Alma Gorse.
The Morgan County Commissioners will also be attending the special meeting. County attorney Richard Gay will be present to answer questions about the proposed Billboard Ordinance.
Gorse discussed the confusion regarding the legalities in the Billboard Ordinance wording at the January 19 Morgan County Commission meeting. She requested that Gay come to the Planning Commission's special meeting to advise them if their Billboard Ordinance draft says what they want it to say.
Will be a zoning ordinance
The Billboard Ordinance will be some kind of zoning ordinance, said Gorse. It's been unclear whether the document should be an ordinance that allows billboards along a certain corridor or if it should be a county ordinance.
There were questions as to which way the ordinance should be written, said Gorse. Gorse felt the Planning Commission needed some legal guidance on their draft.
After some discussion, the County Commission voted to allow Gay to come to the Planning Commission's special meeting. Once the Planning Commission has the final draft of the Billboard Ordinance, there will be a 60-day review
of the ordinance by their attorney.
County Commissioner Glen Stotler said that if the county was going to adopt a Billboard Ordinance, they needed to make sure that it was done right. The Tower Ordinance was challenged in court and was declared invalid, he said.
County Commissioner Tommy Swaim was concerned that local residents may not be able to put an "Eggs for Sale" sign outside of their house.
Stotler thought there needed to be some compromise where we "find some middle ground we can live with."
James and Jeri Mahan came to the January 22 Morgan County Commission meeting to express their concerns about county billboards. They gave a copy of a PowerPoint presentation to the Commission that contained pictures of the current billboards along Route 9 and U.S. Route 522.
"The more signs that go up in one area, the more it diminishes us all," said Jeri Mahan.
The couple had previously contacted County Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson on her website. They had exchanged e-mails about the Mahans' billboard concerns, said Hutchinson.
Jeri Mahan has a background in advertising and offered her help and expertise in finding who owned the land and who rented the billboards, said Hutchinson. She encouraged the Mahans to attend the January 23 Planning Commission meeting.
Billboard ban up in May
In November, the county extended its six-month ban on off-premise billboards along the Washington Heritage Trail in Morgan County until May 2007. The Morgan County Planning Commission has been researching and working on a Billboard Ordinance draft to bring before the Morgan County Commission by their last meeting in March.
The purpose of the Billboard Ordinance is to define areas where billboards may be permitted, according to Planning Commission President Jack Soronen. The regulations would pertain to large commercial billboards and not signs advertising on-premise businesses.
Paul Mock from Mock's Greenhouse & Landscaping told the County Commission of the small road signs with pointing left or right arrows that some states use to advertise business locations. The business name and the mileage to their location would be included on the sign in upper and small case letters, said Mock.
These signs are similar in size to road signs, he said. In a few states, the state highway department has a program where businesses pay a one-time fee to have the state maintain their sign location.
Mock had mixed feelings about giant outdoor billboards. Some are used by local businesses and are part of our economy, he noted. The signs he was proposing weren't "big, gaudy signs," but directional signs for people to find their way to business locations like his.
The County Commission agreed to further explore the potential use of smaller business signage.