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Planning & Zoning Updates Sign Ordinances park

By MARK EVANS

mevans@stegenherald.com

Members of The Five Man Electrical Band would probably be pleased with the Ste. Genevieve Planning and Zoning Commission.

The band shouldn’t have to worry about signs “Blockin’ out the scenery; Breakin’ my mind,” as they sang about in their 1971 hit, “Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign!.”

After updating ordinances on mobile homes at the meeting last Thursday, the commission tightened up some wording in the city’s sign ordinances.

Community development administrator David Bova presented five suggested revisions to wording in the city’s ordinances on signs. He also explained how they are somewhat limited in controlling signs.

“With few exceptions, we cannot restrict content on signs,” Bova explained. “There’s basically a  rule out there that if code enforcement has to walk up and read the sign to see if it’s legal, it’s already very wrong.”

He said nudity or pornography would be about the only exceptions.

He said cleaning up the verbiage of the existing sign ordinance was his goal.

“I’ve received several complaints over the past six months,”  Bova said. “Any content-related complaint, I always let that person know that we can’t control content. That’s kind of the purpose of the First Amendment. People can say things that you don’t like to hear.”

Time, place and manner, though, can be controlled for temporary signs. Bova said the definition of a “temporary sign” was also vague in the ordinance. Plus, it did not exempt the owner from needing a permit to erect it.

Kinsky said he liked that the proposed revision took out mention of “political” signs. He mentioned a court case in La Due, Missouri, involving a sign.

He warned that this was “a real mine field.” Bova assured him that it would be run past city attorney Mark Bishop before it would be passed on to the board of aldermen.

Commission member Gina Bryant said she liked the idea of placing a time limit on temporary signs. Beyond that range, the person could get a permit and put up a permanent fixture for the sign.

Discussions were also held on how big signs can be.

At one point during the discussion, Mike Sizemore addressed the commission. He said he came to Ste. Genevieve 12 years ago as supervisor of operations at Sabreliner Aviation, before health issues forced him to quit. He noted that he is retired military and said, “I stand for my country.”

He expressed concern about how long some temporary signs were kept out.

“If your candidate loses, you might be upset, but get over it like everything else,” he said. “If your candidate wins, good. But, in the same token, we want to try to keep things clean, keep things up honest.”

He said flags and campaign posters should be taken down within a week after elections are held.

“I get signs,” he said. “I get that. You’re going to do a fundraiser; you’re going to do something to cheer on your team at the high school. I get that and that’s cool. That’s great.”

He reiterated that election signs should come down shortly after elections.

“It just detracts away from our city, in my opinion,” he said.

Kinsky warned that specifically saying political signs must come down two weeks after an election might not cut mustard with the attorney.

First, the commission unanimously approved Bova’s updated definition of a temporary sign as “A sign constructed of non-permanent materials including, but not limited to vinyl, cardboard, coroplast, plastic, sheet metal or wood and placed either on the ground on a pole(s) without a footing to support such pole(s), or to a building with such materials as rope, string, tacks or screws and not enclosed in some form of permanent cabinet or structure.”

It then unanimously approved adding the word “temporary” to the existing definition of “banner” in the ordinance.

The third change was on 405:I1g, which listed only real estate signs to be exempt from getting a permit. All temporary signs, 18 square feet in gross surface areas in residential areas and 64 square feet in other zones, with no greater height than five feet from the ground to the top of the sign and cannot be displayed more than 60 consecutive days or 120 total days in a calendar year. A temporary sign also cannot extend above the facade of the wall it is on.