by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG — After several motions by City Planning and Zoning committee member Dr. William Beverly, of the P and Z committee approved staff to draft a proposed off-premise sign chapter to be added to a new draft of the city’s zoning and planning codes.
They have been working on an overall signage code for the past seven months. If P and Z recommends the chapter for approval by City Council and it is approved, it will be the first update to the city’s signage codes since 1975.
The first motion by Dr. Beverly called for creating a separate chapter on off- premise signs rather then adding amendments to the code. Committee chair John Carlson voted no until the Colorado Department of Transportation had been consulted. Rick Jennings, Gary Sporcich, Dr. William Beverly and George Birrer voted to move ahead with the idea. Committee members Paul Rivera, Bruce Quintana and Mike Lave were absent from the meeting.
Prior to the vote Carlson said, “After consulting earlier with CDOT, we were told that regulation of off-premise signs is up to CDOT, and they say no to these kinds of signs.” The city currently has a zoning code saying there will be no off-premise signs.
If signage is located 600 feet off the highways that run through Walsenburg, then they fall within the city’s jurisdiction. The First Choice grocery store is asking for an amendment to the current sign code allowing the store to post off-premise signs.
Carlson then objected saying the rest of the sign code should be finished first. “We can get the basic sign code to the city council in January or February and then we can start adding chapters to this. We can add amendments for the hot button subjects.”
The idea of adding amendments to the code didn’t sit well with some of the members. “If that’s the case we could just amend the old code right now,” Sporcich said.
“It would be harder to amend the old code then to bring in this new code,” Carlson said. “It’s easier to start a new one.”
The draft code is based on the International Zoning Codes and the city had to receive permission from the copyright holder to use it. What they need to do now is finish filling in the sizes for various signs and tackle other aspects of signage regulation in the city such as size and location.
The discussion went from off-premise signs in general to off-premise signs displayed on the sides of buildings other than the side facing the frontage, a discussion that has been going on for months as part of the signage issue focused on First Choice.
Carlson balked at a suggestion from Dr. Beverly that the sign code could be finished and an off- premise sign code could be written before the meeting adjourned. “I don’t believe we can do an off- premise sign code without having the state comment on it,” Carlson said.
Beverly replied to Carlson’s objection saying, he thought the rule was one of restrictions. “The rule of law as I understand it, and I’m not an attorney, but the most restrictive policy rules.”
“I’m hesitant to do this unless we put in something like, ‘subject to state,’” Carlson said.
The second motion from Dr. Beverly was to draft an off-premise sign code. Committee member Gary Sporcich seconded the motion. The committee passed the motion on a 4-1 vote with Carlson voting no. He said he wanted to consult the state.
The motion also called for the off-premise sign code to be included with the regular sign code that will be submitted for approval by the City Council.
Staff will compose a proposed draft of the code with recommended changes in sign placement in various zoned areas of the city. The code will avoid sign placement in residential areas but commercial areas will be included. The committee will not be able to regulate sign content.
The meeting was adjourned around 8:30. The Huerfano World Journal caught up with Carlson outside City Hall and asked him for a comment.
He said he was frustrated with the lack of citizen participation in the process of building a code. “I would love to see the people of this town who have businesses come forward and tell us what they want. I would love to see them get involved but they won’t.”
The City’s Planning and Zoning Committee will meet in regular meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14 starting at 6 pm in City Hall.