City Council extends sign moratorium for three months, annexes land for mobile home park

Monday, May 6, 2013 | 11:04 p.m. CDT; updated 10:59 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 7, 2013

COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council passed an amended ordinance Monday night to extend the moratorium on electronic, lighted window signs by three months in order for the Planning and Zoning Commission to have time to gather public input.

The amended ordinance was passed with a vote of 5-2, with Mayor Bob McDavid and Fifth Ward Council member Laura Nauser voting against the extended moratorium.


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"I think this is an overreaction to an instance of one specific sign," Nauser said, implying the sign at A.W. Smith Law Firm, which stirred controversy in October. She also said she doesn't think it is fair for the council to issue a moratorium because the process is slow.

The council voted 4-3 in October for an initial six-month moratorium on the signs, but that did not apply to the sign at the A.W. Smith Law Firm at Broadway and Stadium, according to Missourian reporting.

The initial proposal for an extension of six months was voted down in a 4-3 vote at the April 1 council meeting before new council members Ian Thomas and Karl Skala were voted onto the council, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

A.W. Smith, president of the law firm with an LED sign, said during the council meeting that he thinks the moratorium was passed because of controversy over his sign and said he was disappointed when he found out the issue was going to be drawn out. As part of his presentation to the council, Smith showed examples of other distracting signs in the community, such as those from the Missouri Department of Transportation, signs outside liquor stores and banks and ones on city buses.

"All over town we find these," Smith said.

Smith also told council members that he toned down the brightness of his sign and uses it for public service announcements.

Columbia resident Curtis Bohl spoke during public comment and said he was surprised that Planning and Zoning hasn't solved the issue in the seven months it has had to work on it.

Third Ward City Council member Skala said he worked on this issue with the Planning and Zoning Commission and that it was close to forwarding a recommendation to the council.

Skala specified that advertisements at intersections are a "public safety hazard" whereas signs not at intersections, like MoDOT's, are not.

Sixth Ward Council member Barbara Hoppe said Planning and Zoning had sent a draft but has asked for more time to seek public input on the issue. She proposed amending the extended moratorium to three months instead of six.

Smith said he has had a difficult time getting businesses to fill the other two units in his building for multiple reasons, one of which is that they want to have signs. He also noted that he designed the building around the sign.

The council also unanimously voted to approve the annexation of 25.2 acres of land northeast of the city to bring a mobile home park into city boundaries.

According to a memo from the city manager and staff addressed to the council, the area is already zoned as moderate density residential, or R-M, under county standards. R-M zoning in the county would be the same as residential manufactured home, or RMH, zoning at the city level. The Doris Overton Trust, owner of the High Hill Circle mobile home park, also requested that it not have to comply with some standards, such as a screen around the area.

The Trust's attorney, Garrett Taylor, said it would not be possible to put a screen because it would run up against U.S. 63.

Taylor said annexing the mobile home park into the city was one of five options considered and connecting to the city's sewer system was the most environmentally friendly and the best option. The two-cell lagoon system that the park currently pumps to has "met its useful life," he said.

"I think this is good and appropriate," said Hoppe. "We do need affordable housing, so I'm happy to see it's existing affordable housing that's going to be kept in the city."

The council also voted unanimously to remove a tree at Garth Avenue and Stewart Road. No date has been set for the removal. The tree was said to pose a threat to utility lines and pedestrians, and it will be removed by Columbia Water and Light. The tree will be replaced through a "trade a tree" program.

Missourian reporter Valentine Lamar contributed to this report.

Supervising editor is Karen Miller.

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Kevin Gamble May 7, 2013 | 5:11 p.m.

A lot of good sense on display here. 5-2 is creating some very good, community-friendly decisions so far. In the rush to have supposed freedoms trump any civic responsibility, we lose track of the importance of having standards in a community. Our highways are already some of the most billboard-spoiled of anywhere in the country, and electronic signs are their local, similarly ugly counterpart.

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