Wednesday, April 9, 2014

16 Year old Ordinance puts plans for new church sign on hold

J-E News Editor
A sixteen year old city ordinance now stands in the way of progress for one  Sebree church, preventing them from building a new digital sign in front of their building.
Parishioners at the Sebree Christian Church decided some time ago to purchase a new digital sign for their house of worship.
“We started raising money and I went around to different communities to find a sign that would work,”    church goer Brice Marsh told Sebree’s city council on Monday. “We did not realize that there was an ordinance that did not allow digital signs within the city limits of Sebree.”

The issue is a little more complicated than simply one rule that bans digital sinage.
“Everything is out of compliance,” said Sebree city employee Kim Campbell. 
Campbell and city attorney Dorin Luck explained that not only was there a ban specifically on ‘digital copy signs’ anywhere in the city, there were also rules against building permanent ground signs and illuminated signs in residential zones such as where the church is located.
Permanent ground signs and illuminated signs are only permitted in residential areas if they are marking the entrance to a subdivision.
“You call that a residential zone, but we have two residences and three businesses in that zone,’ said council member Mark Moser, who also pointed out that one of the residences was the minister’s parish, which is owned by the church. “The technology, digital signs, is here, I think we really need to take a hard look at this. I know if I was going to put a new sign up at my business (E&M Heating and Plumbing) it would probably be digital.”
The law does not allow for ‘spot zoning’, meaning that the city could not simply move the church from a residential zone to a commercial zone. The entire block of Highway 370 between Henderson Street and US 41 would need to be rezoned.
According to Luck, the sign that currently stands in front of the Sebree Christian Church is not compliant with the city ordinance, but as it was standing prior to the April 1998 adoption of that ordinance, the rule does not apply to that particular sign. He even said the church could go as far as replacing it with an identical sign, but they could not, under current rules, put up a digital sign.
“If you are really looking at rejuvenating the sign ordinance, you should probably look at the entire ordinance,” said Luck. “If nobody is in a hurry, my suggestion would be to read through the whole ordinance and figure out exactly what it is you want to change.”
Unfortunately the issue is far more difficult that simply waiving or changing the ordinance for the church. Because the sign ordinance is in effect, any changes would have to first be introduced to the council by the Sebree Planning Commission. That commission working under a directive from the council, would need to determine how to best address the situation.
The council discussed tabling the issue for a month so that they could determine what directive to give the planning commission, but such a move would have drastically delayed the process.
“I’m not for putting these people off for thirty days and then having to refer it to the planning commission,” said Mark Moser. “They might end up with snow flying again before they can get anything done.”
The council decided to proceed with taking the issue to the planning commission so that the process of trying to make some change to this issue could happen.
“Our goal was just to make something to beautify the city,” said Brice Marsh. “When you go into other cities and see these signs, they are something that automatically catch your eye.”
The next Sebree Council meeting is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on May 5, 2014.