Council passes first reading of sign ordinance revision

Gray Hughes

The Hill City Common Council approved the first reading of a proposed sign ordinance revision at its latest meeting on Monday.

The vote came after the Hill City Planning and Zoning Commission sent the ordinance to council after the commission’s last meeting.

“In 2014, planning and zoning discussed the sign ordinance but did not make changes to it but said that changes would be needed in the future,” said Dani Schade, development service coordinator for Hill City. “In 2018 an alderman wanted to revisit the sign ordinance.”

The revision is to Chapter 10 of the Hill City Municipal Code which deals with sign regulations. The commission had been working on the sign ordinance revision for over a year with over 20 meetings held to discuss the changes.

Among the numerous revisions are changes to many definitions, expansion of the transition sign area to include Walnut Avenue from McGregor Street to East Main Street and the addition of more prohibited signs, which includes signs that exhibit statements, words or pictures of obscene or pornographic subjects as determined by the code official along with air puppets, animated and digital signs to the list of prohibited signs, among many other changes.

When looking at the ordinance, the only changes that Jason Gillaspie, Hill City alderman, had involved grammatical issues along with ensuring the wording in the revision is uniform.

There was discussion on abandoned signs within town. The revised code is stricter on abandoned and damaged signs, with any sign that is unlawfully installed, erected or maintained or if the sign’s ad copy has deteriorated by 50 percent as determined by the code official and affirmed by the planning and zoning commission to be removed or changed within 10 days of notification or 45 days in the case of deteriorated ad copy on the sign.

However, the council decided to let that portion of the sign ordinance revision remain the same.

Kathy Skorzewski, Hill City mayor, said that since this was the first reading of the sign ordinance revision, the council would be able to discuss the ordinance again and see changes that it wants at the next meeting.

Alderman Bill Miner had some concerns regarding the animated sign ban.

“I believe we have someone speak (at a previous meeting) who had a reader board sign that was old and it would irreparable if it fails,” Miner said. Miner said that sign owner would need to buy an animated sign to replace their old reader board sign because traditional reader board signs are no longer being manufactured.

Alderman Dale Householder, who served on the planning and zoning commission for the vast majority of the time the sign ordinance revision was being discussed, said the commission did not take the revision lightly.

There was a lot of discussion before the commission came to a consensus, Householder said, over a near-two-year period where both members of the public and members of the council were invited to listen to the discussions.

Miner had some concerns regarding potential litigation regarding billboard signs.

“Rapid City was in a 10-year legal battle with advertising companies regarding their ban of billboards,” he said. The update to the sign ordinance requires 500 feet between billboards, up from 300 feet in the previous ordinance.

Katelyn Cook, Hill City city attorney, said billboards are a hot topic for every city she has represented. This sign ordinance revision is not a ban on billboards, she said.

Miner, too, wanted to know if existing animated signs would be permitted under the code ordinance revision.

Schade informed Miner that, so long as the sign was in existence before the passing of the revision, the newly nonconforming signs would be grandfathered into compliance.

Miner said he has issues with the proposed revisions, saying the city was “fooling itself” for banning animated signs, which he said will become more prevalent in the future, and the ban would not be sustainable.

He also had issues with quotes being taken out of context in the Hill City Comprehensive Plan to bolster the sign ordinance.

When it came time to vote, the vote passed 3-1 with Gillaspie, Householder and Carl Doaty approving the first reading and Miner voting against it.

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