P&Z sign ordinance gets scrutinized

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Jones County Planning and Zoning Commission is once again reviewing its Sign Requirements Ordinance to determine whether it needs to be revised.

     At issue are two businesses in the Anamosa area, Jones County Roadhouse and the former Furniture Mart. The owners of both, Rick Ellison and Dean Wood, are in apparent violation of the current sign ordinance. Both have two wall signs on their buildings and one pole sign in the ground in the front of their property. According to Land Use Administrator Michele Lubben, property owners can only have two signs: one wall sign (on-premise/attached to a building) and one pole sign (on-premise/post).

     During the Aug. 8 P&Z meeting, a few people were in attendance, as were Supervisors Lloyd Eaken and Ned Rohwedder.

     “There was a lot of discussion, but no action,” said Lubben. “The supervisors stressed they’d like to see the ordinance less restrictive, but there was no direction on how to be less restrictive.”

     Lubben presented the P&Z and those present with a spreadsheet outlining sign ordinances from several neighboring counties and cities. In one case, Delaware County, they don’t even have a sign ordinance.

     The way the conversation seems to be headed, if a change were made to the sign ordinance, it would only apply to commercially-zone property (C-1).

     A year ago, the P&Z amended its ordinance to accommodate commercial property that fronts Highway 151, such as Savor the Barn in Langworthy. They are now allowed larger and taller signs than normal. The sign ordinance has been amended twice since 2014.

     Lubben said the public who were present at the P&Z meeting suggested pulling input from those businesses that would be affected by the ordinance. Lubben said she plans to bring Economic Development Director Dusty Embree into the mix.

     However, Lubben said why fix something that may not be flawed?

     “Why change the ordinance when two people broke the rules?” she asked. “Some people know about the rules and tend to follow them.”

     “They’re not in compliance,” added Tim Fay, P&Z board member. “But this is leading the supervisors to suggest a change.”

     Fay said what upsets the P&Z more is that both Ellison and Wood knew the rules but “did what they wanted anyway.”

     In terms of complaints from businesses (or perspective businesses) that Jones County’s sign ordinance is too restrictive, Fay said P&Z has yet to hear of any issues.

     “I personally don’t think our ordinance is too restrictive,” he said. It’s black and white and pretty clear what’s allowed and what’s not. Businesses don’t seem to be upset.”

     Rohwedder said it’s not the entire sign ordinance the supervisors have an issue with, but parts of it.

     “Parts of the ordinance are pretty restrictive,” he clarified.

     Lubben said the P&Z was also hesitant to make any changes at the present time due to pending litigation involving Ellison’s violation. A court date was set for Aug. 9, but he didn’t appear in court. His initial appearance is now set for Aug. 23.

     “He has applied for a variance request through the Board of Adjustment,” noted Lubben.

     “There’s no reason they (P&Z) can’t work on the ordinance now,” countered Rohwedder. “They could take input.”

     For now, the sign ordinance will be back on the P&Z’s next agenda for the Tuesday, Sept. 12 meeting at 6 p.m.


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