Aldermen wary of setting precedent by granting Illers' sign

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

For the past 20 years, Donald Illers has used a portable sign advertising his blueberries at his home on 2589 S. Hope St. in Jackson. The sign generally goes up for a few weeks at the start of blueberry season in June, and then again in the fall, when he and his wife, Joan, sell frozen blueberries from their house.

This year he's got to come up with a different advertising plan.

A vote to approve a special-use permit for a seasonal portable advertising sign for Illers Berry Farm failed at Monday night's Jackson Board of Aldermen meeting. Aldermen Barbara Lohr, David Reiminger, Val Tuschoff and Dale Rauh voted against the permit. Aldermen Larry Cunningham, Joe Baker, Kerry Hoffman and Phil Penzel voted in favor.

The mayor can cast a vote to break a tie vote, but Mayor Paul Sander abstained because he is Donald and Joan Illers' nephew.

According to Jackson's sign ordinance, portable advertisement signs may be located in any commercial or industrial district. The signs must be used temporarily for a maximum of six months. The aldermen can issue only one temporary sign permit for any address unless there's a change of occupancy or change of business name.

When the board of aldermen adopted the ordinance in 2004, a number of business converted portable signs into permanent signs, said Janet Sanders, building and planning superintendent.

"This was a unique situation," Sanders said of the Illers' request for a special permit. "They have used a portable sign for a number of years, when the signs were allowed," she said.

The Illers' sign was considered an off-site advertisement since their berry farm is located off Highway 72 in Millersville.

"This was the first time for a situation like this to ever come up, and it may be the only one," Sanders said. "But there may be merchants who had to take their portable signs down come back asking for a special-use permit."

That was the reason Lohr voted against the Illers' special-use permit. "My concern is that it would establish a precedent for allowing these seasonal and off-premises portable signs. It would open a floodgate for a lot of people who might come in to ask for special permits," Lohr said.

While acknowledging the portable sign violates the city ordinance, Hoffman wanted to grant the permit. "They've been doing this so long, and Mr. Illers keeps it clean and away from the road," he said.

After the meeting, Donald Illers said he isn't sure how he'll advertise the berries now. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see," he said.

335-6611, extension 246

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