Prior to the start of the Warsaw City Plan Commission meeting, Warsaw City Planner Jeremy Skinner had provided copies for the audience of the existing ordinance and bullet points of proposed changes. In this latest version, the planners agreed to change the restrictions on several areas, including backing off on a stance to largely restrict window covering advertisements.
Monica Boyer of the Kosciusko Silent No More group, which held a general public meeting on the proposed changes last month, was the first to address the WPC expressing thanks to Skinner for coming out and leading that meeting, and also thanking the planning board for responding to the people’s requests.
Jim Heierman, founder of KSNM, also said he appreciated how “open and receptive” the board has been to the public’s input, and local businessman Wes Stouder also thanked the board for the positive changes they are working on.
In the new proposed changes, roof signs and portable signs have been removed from the “prohibited” section. Also, non-helium filled balloons, as well as 5-foot from right-of-way setbacks for streamers, banners and flags will be allowed for businesses, such as car dealerships, whose primary business is conducted outside.
Businesses such as restaurants and shoe stores that utilize window signs were given notice that the proposed restrictions that would have allowed them to only use 25 percent of their available window space were told that provision is now proposed at 40 percent coverage. Skinner explained, “There was some confusion on that but basically now, if a business has five windows, two could be 100 percent covered.”
The term “pliable material” has been removed from the temporary sign description. Although temporary signs will still require a $15 permit, by removing the terminology, the ordinance allows for temporary signs – such as banners – to be considered permanent signs as long as they are affixed and secured to a permanent structure.
One point of contention that is remaining in the proposed ordinance, however, is the restrictions for “moving signs,” such as those held by people hired to stand outside of businesses. Discussion veered toward some dissenting views when Skinner noted no changes were considered in that area.
As it stands, businesses that utilize people to hold signs and stand, dance or walk in front of businesses to attract customers are not legal.
Warsaw citizen Jerry Opperud said he hopes “common sense will prevail” in the ordinance. “What’s attractive and what isn’t? What’s distractive and what isn’t?”
While discussions between WPC members Jim Gast, Rick Keeven, Tom Allen and audience members debated the term “common sense,” Skinner duly noted that it simply cannot be defined in legal terms and therefore the sign ordinance needs to be specific. That means, as proposed, walking signs will be prohibited. The exception will be charity and fund-raising events that will allow people to hold signs for such events as car washes and chicken sales.
Skinner said the city, however, “… would not actively be chasing down (violators), but when it becomes a safety issue we’ll address it.” That raised a concern by Boyer who again addressed the board, only this time she wanted clarification. “So Wally (the Penguin) may be OK one day, but Ronald McDonald may not be OK the next day? It’s either illegal or not.”
WPC members and Skinner argued that the ordinance will be written in such a manner that does prohibit walking signs, but enforcement will come into play when it becomes a safety issue. WPC member Gast said, “We’re trying to keep it (the ordinance) less than 10 pages and I think we can leave it as written and still enforce it.”
Monday night’s meeting was the third public hearing on the proposed changes to the existing sign ordinance. The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13. The Warsaw Planning Commission is only the advisory board on the issue. The Warsaw City Council will have the final vote when the WPC has voted to accept a final draft.