Ellison seeks sign variance after civil citation

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Rick Ellison, owner of the Jones County Roadhouse, was present at the July 5 board of supervisor meeting with discuss a civil infraction he received. Michele Lubben, Land Use administrator, was directed by the supervisors to issue Ellison a civil penalty for violating the county’s sign regulations in a commercial district.

     Ellison’s restaurant has two wall signs affixed to his building, when only one sign is permitted, a rule both Supervisors Ned Rohwedder and Lloyd Eaken feel needs to be revisited by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

     Ellison admitted he ordered his signs without looking into the county’s rules. He said he asked if her could apply for a variance to the rule, but now that he’s been issued a civil penalty, he cannot follow through.

     “These re not big, ugly signs,” he said. “They don’t block traffic.”

     Lubben said his variance application would not have been accepted because he was already issued the citation. She said it wasn’t until the notice went out that Ellison asked about the variance.

     “It wouldn’t be worth paying $250 for the variance application and to go through the process when the civil citation had already taken place or was in the process,” she said. “I’m not sure what the court will say, and there’s no guarantee he’ll get the variance.”

     Ellison told the board he is just trying to create a nice business in Jones County, bring money into the county, and now it’s getting more and more difficult to do so.

     With a court date on Aug. 9, the board urged Ellison to visit with the county attorney on the matter of lifting the citation or getting a variance.

     “The judge might ask him to take one of the signs down,” said Lubben. “We could start the variance process, but I’m not sure it will fix the problem.”

     Lubben said she spent several weeks trying to get in touch with Ellison, even sending a certified letter, which he said he never received. Ellison said he’s been in the process of moving.

     “A phone call would have been nice,” he said. Lubben did send Ellison a text message on the matter.

     Again, Ellison admitted he didn’t know he needed permission to put up his signs. He told the board he felt sign permits weren’t of real importance in the county with other things going on that need more attention.

     Economic Development Director Dusty Embree said she has heard of other potential businesses express their frustrations over the restrictive sign ordinance.

     “That’s the number one thing I hear from businesses,” she said. “That sign ordinance is very tight.”

     Embree said she’d be interested in knowing what other counties have as far as the same ordinance.

     “As Economic Development, we encourage business in the county,” added Embree.”

     Lubben said the sign ordinance has been changes twice recently to be more lenient.

     “It seems every time something comes up, we tweak it,” she said.

     The board will revisit the discussion at the next meeting after Ellison visits with the county attorney.

In other county business:

     • The board approved the use of Shaw Road for a 5K race as part of Anamosa’s Pumpkinfest on Oct. 7.

     • The board approved a contract with Taylor Construction for the 105th Avenue Bridge replacement project. Taylor was the low bid at $325,280.28 The engineer’s estimate was $450,000.

     • The board approved a bid from Eastern Iowa Excavating for $27,949.75 to replace the intersection at Highway 136 and County Road E-17.

     • The board hired Ted Kraus, Monti Plumbing, Heating & Electric, for county electrician services.


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