The politically based KSNM group called the special meeting to hear specifics about the proposed sign ordinance, to question its necessity and to largely say they are opposed to more bureaucracy.
Skinner repeatedly said the ordinance is being revised by the Warsaw Planning Commission to actually give businesses more options. “The main reason this (process) was started about 9 years ago is because the current sign ordinance is hard to understand and poorly written. This is purely to make it more user friendly; for usability and to give businesses flexibility.”
It was a statement that would be challenged several times throughout the two-hour meeting.
Jeremiah Heierman, a sign contractor and local resident, crafted a slide slow from several hundred photos of local signage. He asked Skinner to note which ones would be illegal under the new ordinance and also spotlighted several businesses – namely Shoe Show, Little Ceasars’, Pet Supplies Plus and Steak & Shake – which will all be in obvious violation of a proposed revision limiting window signs.
Skinner explained that businesses currently using window signs that occupy most or all of the windows will be grandfathered in the ordinance. However, once those signs are taken down (i.e. when the promotions are over) excessive signage cannot be replace. The ordinance would limit businesses to using only 25 percent of their available window space.
Skinner also explained how temporary signs will work, said that flashing signs will be illegal, and again stressed that safety and aesthetics are what’s driving the ordinance revisions.
Although he is a North Webster resident, Dan Thystrup attended the meeting and made a point that many in the audience agreed with. Thystrup said, “We talked about (signs) being aesthetically nice, but don’t we as a public have a bigger impact on business than you think? We don’t go where it looks unpainted and ugly; we are thinking the kitchen looks the same way so we are voting with our feet.”
His comment was lauded by others as evidence to them the city should not focus so much on aesthetics, but rather stick with safety matters. That prompted Rep. Dave Wolkins of Winona Lake to ask what problem the city is trying to solve? “Have there been accidents relating to signs? What’s the reasoning?”
Skinner again said the city is not trying to be more restrictive. “If anything we’re giving more options, allowing more possibilities like larger signs for downtown businesses,” he said.
Warsaw resident Craig Nayrocker suggested the city leave the aesthetic portion out of the proposed ordinance amendments saying it was possible the city planning commission members interjected their own middle class ideals of what is attractive. He and others in the audience felt that determining what is attractive and what is not is a matter of opinion that cannot be enforced. “I’m impressed with the huge steps the board has taken to clarify the ordinance, but I think it should have limited government regulations.”
Skinner said the Warsaw Planning Commission is still in the public hearing portion of the ordinance drafting and the public is encouraged to attend and voice their opinions to the full commission. When asked how many involved in Tuesday night’s meeting would attend a planning meeting, about 70 percent raised their hands.
The Warsaw City Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, July 9, in the Warsaw Common Council chambers.