A marathon Greensburg Common Council session resulted in passage of the long-debated city sign ordinance Monday night.
The council debated for nearly an hour over details of the ordinance — which has been examined and re-examined multiple times throughout the last two years — before finally voting unanimously to enact the new legislation.
Mayor Gary Herbert urged the council to pass the measure, so long as all involved felt comfortable with the details.
“I want this to be ended,” the mayor told the council. “We need to come to an end and we need to do it soon.”
When all was said and done, there was a palpable sense of relief in the City Hall meeting room.
The third reading of the ordinance resulted in some changes, which were presented by Councilman Glenn Tebbe. Tebbe had worked on the ordinance in his personal time as well as through his position on the City Plan Commission.
Tebbe recommended a pair of modifications to the ordinance, the first of which removed any restrictions in the number of panels to be used in multi-panel signs. The second increased the maximum wall sign size allotment to 1.75 times the length of the building. Previously, the ordinance had stated 1.5 times the length of the building would be the maximum size permitted.
Later, the council amended some of the ordinance’s Appendix B and set the maximum height limit to 50 feet in the city.
Mayor Herbert wondered aloud at the practice of setting sign size based on speed limits, while Councilman Terry Wagner and others questioned whether the ordinance may lead future potential businesses to decide against setting up shop in Greensburg.
City Engineer Gary Murray allayed those fears by stating he had never seen a business refuse to settle in town based on a sign ordinance. Greensburg-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce Director Jeff Emsweller attended the meeting, and offered his thoughts at the behest of Mayor Herbert and the council.
Emsweller stated his opinion that businesses will still come to Greensburg no matter the ordinance, and he added keeping the town attractive was just as important. Emsweller called local business owner Shawn Green “an expert” on the matter. Green was integral in helping construct the ordinance, and the council thanked him for his efforts.
Mayor Herbert referred to the changes in the ordinance as “improvements” on multiple occasions Monday. Councilman Jamie Cain seconded those thoughts by stating, “I think, overall, there’s a lot of positives.”
For a moment, the council considered letting the Plan Commission have another review of the ordinance, but Tebbe stated his feelings that little would be accomplished in doing so.
Councilman Blake O’Mara made the initial motion to pass the ordinance following the long debate.
Later in the meeting, Mayor Herbert and Street Commissioner Mark Klosterkemper spoke of a change in the city’s grass cutting ordinance that would significantly shorten the time before the city steps in to take care of an unkempt lawn. Herbert and Klosterkemper told the council the problem stems from the same landowners each and every year, and recommended shortening the notification period from 10 days to five. Under the new ordinance, police officers could serve notice to residents that out-of-control lawns must be cut within a given amount of time instead of the customary practice of mailing a certified letter.
The reason for the ordinance lies in frustration on the part of the city as well as the misconception that the Street Department or other members of the city are responsible for lawns that have been ignored for too long.
“Nobody wants to live next to a jungle,” Klosterkemper said.
In that regard, the revision to the ordinance would reduce the maximum height of grass from nine inches to seven.
“We owe it to the good citizens of Greensburg,” Mayor Herbert said of the change. “People call and complain and I don’t blame them.”
Councilman Cain expressed concern that the ordinance could negatively affect individuals unable to cut their grass for a variety of personal reasons.
Herbert, Klosterkemper and Greensburg Fire Chief Scott Chasteen were adamant that more than 90 percent of the “problem areas” are such due to simple negligence on the part of the homeowners. They cited absentee owners and homes repossessed by banks as the most common offenders.
Speaking of the problem, Chief Chasteen said, “Normal residents think it’s a case of the city not wanting to deal with it.”
An additional reading of the amendment is planned to take place at the next Common Council meeting set for Monday, June 3.
In other events Monday night, the council heard a presentation by members of Neace Lukens regarding changes necessary due to the passage of The Affordable Care Act. Tax abatements were also granted to Valeo Engine Cooling, GECOM, Wolf Theaters and Neal’s.
Prior to the start of the Common Council meeting, the Board of Works approved the promotion of Greensburg Police Department Sergeant Brendan Bridges to the position of Lieutenant. Officer Dave Wilson will assume the role of Sergeant.
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056