Cape council passes sign ordinance

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Discussion of the sign ordinance again dominated Cape Girardeau city council proceedings Monday night. But despite objections from representatives of Horizon Screen Printing and Promotional Products, the council unanimously approved the ordinance with previous amendments.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said this action is likely just the first step toward curbing what he believes is a proliferation of unsightly signage. "After this passes, there will still be violators out there," he said. "What we're trying to do is put in place the ordinance we want and then work out the enforcement."

But father and son Glenn and Drew Reeves of Horizon think the law is too restrictive and recommended the council think about enforcing the ordinance already on the books.

"A lot of the issues that you're bringing in with the new ordinance are adding a lot of restrictions to an ordinance that had no enforcement to begin with," Drew Reeves said.

Glenn Reeves brought pictures of signs that would be illegal under the new ordinance in an effort, he said, to demonstrate to council members that restrictions would be catastrophic to the advertising small businesses depend on. He showed pictures of a wall sign used by Sun & Tan and described a banner sign used by Burger King, both of which violate the new ordinance.

"When someone is driving down Broadway, I guess we just have to hope that they know where to stop, because without signs it's going to be hard to find these businesses," said Glenn Reeves.

In discussion, city manager Doug Leslie pointed out that existing permanent signs would be grandfathered in, and Knudtson said he believes signage is "insignificant to the profit margins" of most businesses.

Only not-for-profit organizations will be granted exceptions. They will be allowed one on-site promotional sign and multiple off-premise promotional signs, none of which can be left up for more than 30 days.

Knudtson called this exemption -- which the Reeves believed to be a double standard -- the "Annie effect," because the council was not prepared to take an unpopular stand against promotion for events such as the middle school play.

In other business, the council extensively discussed issuing a liquor license to the soon-to-be reopened AM PM convenience store at 1101 William St. In the past, the store has been the site of a list of crimes, including five instances of drug possession and an assault in 2005 alone. It is now owned by Alam Zahed, who also owns the Quick and Save at 2861 Themis St.

The liquor license was issued, but council members promised to give a strict review when it comes up for renewal on June 30. "This place has a rapsheet longer than anything I've ever seen," said Knudtson.

He added that the new owner, Zahed, has "an uphill battle in running a clean establishment."

Zahed said he looks forward to having dialogue with the city and determining how to make the business safer.

335-6611, extension 245

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