Commonwealth Journal

Local News

August 24, 2013

City making progress in eliminating signage

Somerset — City officials are happy with the progress being made in ridding the town of a number of business signs that have been crowding the main U.S. 27 strip for some time.

“It’s a dramatic difference just driving down 27 and through town,” said Councilor Tom Eastham during the Aug. 12 Somerset City Council meeting.

Eastham said he was pleased with Dennis Crist, with planning and zoning, and his work cleaning up some of the hundreds of signs that had been planted throughout Somerset. Those signs had been at the root of citizens’ complaints to councilors, which spurred a renewed interest in enforcing a long-established ordinance.

The city has a sign ordinance dating back to 1995, which was amended in 2005, addressing the sign issue.

The purpose of Ordinance 95-3, amended by Ordinance 05-16, is to “promote and protect the public health, welfare, and safety by regulating existing and proposed outdoor advertising, outdoor advertising signs, and outdoor signs of all types.

“It is intended to protect property values, create a more attractive economic and business climate, enhance and protect the physical appearance of the community, and preserve the scenic nature and beauty of designated areas,” according to the ordinance. “It is further intended to reduce sign or advertising distractions and obstructions that may contribute to traffic accidents, reduce hazards that may be caused by signs overhanging or projecting over public right-of-ways, provide more open space, and curb the deterioration of the natural environment and enhance community development.”

The ordinance includes language that strictly prohibits signs placed in intersections and on right-of-ways except traffic and directional signs. Signs located off the premises of a business — what many signs located on U.S. 27 would qualify as — are prohibited as well. Those signs located on the premises of a business must be limited to two free-standing signs.

Signs are not allowed to be placed on trees or utility poles, according to the ordinance.

City councilors in past meetings had made it clear they were willing to deal with any kind of backlash from business owners affected by the renewed enforcement.

Councilor Jim Mitchell, who has brought the signs up in past council meetings, said during a July meeting he believed officials would receive praise for the enforcement alongside complaints.

“I think you’ll get as many compliments as you will gripes,” said Mitchell.

It seems councilors are hearing many more positive comments than negative.

“I’ve had no complaints,” said Eastham during the Aug. 12 meeting. “If anything, I’ve had a lot of praise about the beautification of the streets.”

The city is still working to clear non-compliant signs from the area.

In other news from the Aug. 12 Somerset City Council meeting:

• Councilor Pat Bourne asked that the hours for SomerSplash Waterpark be made known. The park will remain open this weekend and next weekend until Labor Day, slated for Monday, Sept. 2. The park is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. The pool at the Somerset Family Fitness Center remains open through the week, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, until Labor Day.

Also, people with 2013 season passes are being asked to keep those passes in order to get a discount for the 2014 season. The discounts are being offered to make up for the extended closure of several slides and the lazy river through much of this season due to delays on repair work.

Officials stated that the 2014 discount can’t be given if the 2013 pass isn’t shown.

• Councilor Pat Bourne asked whether anything can be done for a property located on High Street. A woman resides on the property in a small shed-like building.

City of Somerset Attorney Carrie Wiese said they could send workers to mow the area and haul trash away.

• The council discussed making housing available for any veterans in need. Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler said there are options available for veterans, but he said it can be difficult to reach out to that particular group — considered to be highly independent and reluctant to ask for assistance.

Councilor Jim Mitchell also asked that the city look into offering SomerSplash discounts for veterans and active military members starting next season.

• Councilor Jim Rutherford requested that the city check on a property on Main Street, a scattered site housing residence, that he said has become “a little bit of a problem.”

Rutherford asked that inspectors check the property for life and safety issues.

“It’s starting to get pretty bad up there,” said Rutherford.


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