Plan comission discusses amending sign ordinance

The Huntington City Plan Commission met Thursday, March 19, and discussed amending the city's sign ordinance.

Community Development Assistant Director Bryn Keplinger has taken on the task of enforcing and regulating signage throughout the city. In the past several months Keplinger has confiscated numerous signs throughout the city which violate the ordinance.

During the winter months signs could be seen advertising a dating service Web site based in Panama, South America. Singles.net hired a marketing company to place the signs throughout cities.

After Keplinger and previous city workers failed to locate the origin of the signs, he signed up for the service through his home computer and did some digging. He eventually made contact with someone at the company who insisted the signs would no longer be a problem, Keplinger says, but the employee refused to identify himself.

Only a month after removing the signs, Keplinger says he found more than 35 identical signs replacing them. The city is now working with legal counsel to obtain an injunction to stop the illegal signage.

Also creating problems in the city are businesses and individuals posting signs on utility poles and in the rights of way.

When signs are placed on poles, hazards are created for workers who must climb the poles to make repairs.
The rights of way are informally defined by the outer edge of sidewalks or the invisible line created by rows of utility poles. When signs are placed within these boundaries, fines may be assessed.

The council hopes to toughen the rules and pay closer attention to violators of the ordinance.

The current ordinance is vague and leaves room for leniency for signage. A sign steering committee was formed at the meeting to amend the ordinance, closing any loopholes. The amendment would not regulate what is on the signs or the construction of signs, but simply where they are placed.

In other business Thursday evening, the board chose to begin the process of amending a section of the zoning ordinance.

Under the current ordinance, the upper level of the historic downtown buildings cannot be used for residential purposes. Though the rule has not been enforced, the apartments above the businesses should technically be unoccupied.

The board hopes to amend the ordinance allowing the existing apartments to be used for their original purpose: to be lived in. Community Development Director Nate Schacht hopes to encourage residency in the downtown area, bringing consumers to the local businesses.

Because the upper floors not currently zoned for residences, tenants have a difficult time qualifying for financing of the space. The amendment should relieve that difficulty.