Cape Girardeau officials table sign ordinance issue

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

The new sign ordinance that has been more than a year in the making will have to wait a bit longer before the city council signs off on the concept.

After a public hearing where several residents voiced concerns over the ordinance, the Cape Girardeau City Council tabled the issues to allow city manager Doug Leslie, director of inspections Robb McClary, and Tom Meyer time to change some of the wording in order to accommodate more signs.

Meyer, a local real estate agent, helped with the ordinance.

The most vocal opponent at Monday's meeting was Ken Inman of Century 21 Real Estate. His company has $60,000 invested locally in the signature 6-foot-tall L-post signs. The new ordinance calls for real estate signs to be no more than three feet in height.

Inman was also concerned about his company's directional signs used to notify customers of open houses in a neighborhood. Saying these signs are typically put up Friday evening and taken down the Sunday after an open house, Inman stressed the vital nature of this advertisement, "These signs are very important to an open house. We have people from out of town thinking of moving to Cape Girardeau and these signs are important to help them find locations," he said. "We sold $65 million worth of homes last year, and these signs help." These signs when placed on city right of ways under the proposed ordinance, would not be allowed.

The council seemed eager to find ways to accommodate the real estate community, but were wary of granting too many exceptions. "I have been all for this restriction moving forward," said Mayor Jay Knudtson. "But I can fully understand the importance of directional signs and real-estate signs. I understand the argument from a real-estate perspective and that unfortunately opens a can of worms."

While the council expressed willingness to grant exceptions for height and usage of city right of way to real estate companies, there was less flexibility when it came to banner signs.

"So many banner signs are placed out where they can be knocked over by the wind or become unreadable within a couple days," said McCleary. "So really it was an aesthetic issue, but also a safety issue because these signs are not being maintained by people who put them up."

McClary suggested a one-day banner restriction that would permit real estate banners advertising open houses.

Lapse in enforcement

One person who did not get much help was Andrew Taylor, who holds a twice-yearly consignment sale at the armory and in past years has advertised with yard signs and a banner sign on the corner of Lexington Ave. Taylor was told that his sign had always been in violation of city ordinances, but enforcement is just starting to catch up.

"This has been in existence since 1967," said Knudtson. "The confusing thing is that there has perhaps been a little lapse in enforcement."

* Also of note at Monday's meeting was city manager Doug Leslie explaining three proposed amendments to the city charter set to appear on the April 4 ballot.

The first measure would allow the council to fill vacancies by a simple vote until a regular election or a special election could be called.

A second measure would allow the council to raise park fees and other user fees including without voter approval. A vote would still be required to raise water, sewer or trash fees more than 5 percent in a given year.

The third one would scrap the city's seldom-used ethics commission. The amendment would allow the council to appoint a temporary committee to address an ethics issue or defer the complaint to the Missouri state ethics commission.

This marks the fourth time the charter has been amended since its adoption in 1981. Leslie encouraged voters to go to the polls well acquainted with the issues. "We ask that voters get informed on ballot issues before they go to the polls," he said. "The language on the ballot is fairly lengthy so we recommend to voters that they get informed before they go to vote."

* The council also gave final approval to two-way Main Street. City officials said that within two weeks work will begin putting up signs and officially changing traffic patterns.

335-6611, extension 245

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