Council hears complaints about sign restrictions

Posted 6/6/19

The City of Powell’s sign ordinances are overly restrictive, a local food truck operator told the city council on Monday.

Barry Wilske, owner of Topp Dawg Concessions, was recently informed …

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Council hears complaints about sign restrictions

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The City of Powell’s sign ordinances are overly restrictive, a local food truck operator told the city council on Monday.

Barry Wilske, owner of Topp Dawg Concessions, was recently informed by city officials that he couldn’t fly flag signs in front of his food truck — which he intermittently parks on Coulter Avenue, next to the American Legion, for a few hours around lunchtime. Wilske said he’s been in business for several years and flies the flags in other towns where he operates, without any conflicts with local ordinances.

Powell’s ordinances limit temporary signs advertising businesses to 2-foot wide, 4-foot high sandwich boards. There are other restrictions as to when and where on a sidewalk these can be placed.

“From what I understand, it flat-out says they don’t want you to advertise your business,” Wilske said.

Council members said businesses can advertise, but the flags are outside what is permitted. Wilske requested to be allowed to fly his flag signs, which he said were used only for brief intervals and do not interfere with pedestrian traffic.

“It’s only for three hours a day,” he said.

City Administrator Zack Thorington said concerns about the sign restrictions have come before the Planning and Zoning Board, which ultimately recommended to keep the ordinances as they’re written.

Wilske pointed out that signs for Saturday’s free fishing event at Homesteader Park were larger than his, but Mayor John Wetzel said that, since they were advertising a community event and not a business, they were within the city’s sign ordinance.

Councilor Jim Hillberry said part of the reasoning for the sign restrictions was concerns over distractions that could cause accidents.

However, Councilor Scott Mangold expressed support for the council at least giving consideration to reforming the city’s sign ordinances; Mangold said he’s seen Wilske’s signs and didn’t think they were overly distracting.

“I didn’t crash,” he said.

The mayor disagreed. Wetzel said he’s never received complaints about the sign restrictions from brick-and-mortar businesses. The restrictions, he argued, have been revisited by the Planning and Zoning Board before, which upheld them. Other cities, Wetzel added, have more restrictive ordinances on signs and have good economies.

Planning and Zoning “has done a good job,” he said. “It’s going to take a little more convincing before I’d change my mind.”

Visibly irritated by the council’s refusal to grant him permission to fly his flags, Wilske said the sign restrictions are making it difficult for businesses to advertise, which was at odds with economic development.

“Don’t you want the economic benefits?” he asked.

Wetzel said that, while he understands businesses need to advertise, he wasn’t willing to “uniformly override” the conclusions of the Planning and Zoning Board.

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