Cape's sign ordinance changed

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

The city council voted to allow temporary business and commercial signs but pushed back discussion on directional garage-sale signs.

The Cape Girardeau City Council Monday night made changes to the city's controversial sign ordinance but put off discussion of other amendments, including one that would allow directional signs for garage sales.

An approved amendment will allow businesses in commercial and manufacturing zones to display one banner sign on a temporary basis. The change was requested by the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, which had complained that restrictions on advertising hurt business.

But other changes were too hot for immediate approval.

One proposal would allow up to four directional signs for garage sales provided they are placed on private property with the owner's permission. This would not change the prohibition against signs in city right of way or on utility polls.

The second delayed amendment would allow homeowners to display a second temporary real estate sign advertising a "dot.com" listing of the property.

The council will discuss the two latter amendments at the Aug. 21 meeting and will hear the second and third readings on the three amendments already approved.

The council also approved changes to the sign ordinance that will end the requirement of a permit for temporary signs and permit non-profit organizations to fly flags from light posts.

Discussion of the sign ordinance has dragged on for more than two years, and the recent changes did not go off without a hitch. An extended game of "what if" frustrated some on the council who've grown weary of the topic.

"We are the laughingstock of the city right now with this discussion," said Mayor Jay Knudtson, who confessed to not listening to parts of the debate. Knudtson thinks the council went overboard creating hypothetical situations about what might be allowed under the amended ordinance.

"Council, I would really ask you to sit back and think about what your objective is with this ordinance," said Knudtson.

The hypotheticals included Councilman Matt Hopkins asking whether one property could legally have 100 different directional signs for 100 different garage sales. Councilman Charlie Herbst asked whether the restriction of 30 days on portable signs could be divided up into smaller increments. Councilwoman Debra Tracy asked whether a property owner could put four directional signs on his or her own property to advertise an ongoing garage sale.

All this led Knudtson to declare, "I've lost patience."

The council also voted to hire the outside consulting firm Arcturis of St. Louis to help revise the city's comprehensive plan. The city will award the firm a contract for $81,985. Those working for the company will be paid between $50 and $150 per hour. The revision process, which should begin in the fall, will take approximately one year to complete.

It will include extensive citizen input, data analysis, and small brain-storming sessions with both the city's large stakeholders and everyday citizenry. The exercise is meant to determine how Cape Girardeau would like to grow and develop in the future.

Project leader Todd Streiler addressed the council during the study session. "In a lifetime a planner may only work on one or two of these, so it's pretty special when you get to participate," he said. "Revising a comprehensive plan is a great way to increase the confidence of those looking to invest in the community."

The city's comprehensive plan has not been revised since 1987.

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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