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Porter planners discuss regulating banners

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By LILY REX

The Porter Plan Commission tabled proposed changes to the Town’s sign ordinance at its meeting last night following a discussion of how to differentiate between banners and signs.

The Planners held a public hearing where no one spoke for or against the proposed changes, though Porter resident Jennifer Klug asked for clarification on several of the issues at hand.

Klug asked about political signs and temporary yard signs, such as “I Love My Library” and “Proud Union Home” placards and school- or church-related yard signs that homeowners often display indefinitely. State code allows residents to have three such “temporary” signs in their yards at a given time and does not limit the amount of time they are left out. Porter’s new sign ordinance wouldn’t change that, Plan Commission Attorney Laura Frost said.

Frost and Plan Commission President Laura Madigan also said the proposed changes to Porter’s code on temporary signs don’t change the fact that residents are allowed to display political signs of up to 32 square feet up to 60 days before and seven days following elections, per State Code.

Building Commissioner Michael Barry reported the changes would limit signs to four square feet in size and defines a sign as any display affixed to a building, structure, or property. A temporary sign is defined as one that’s easily removed. Signs, permanent and temporary, could be doubled-sided, Barry said.

Barry pointed out, however, that banners would be considered signs under the new ordinance, which is problematic since banners are usually larger than four square feet and displayed differently.

There’s currently a banner for Berglund Construction at the site of the new public works building that’s being built behind the Fire Department, Barry said, and Madigan noted many homeowners display banners just because or for events like parties. Planner Jim Eriksson noted grand openings often feature banners.

Planner Jay Craig said a banner is typically three-by-six or four-by-eight feet, and added that if the new ordinance passed defining banners and signs the same way, the Town could find itself over-policing banners or letting a lot of violations go. Barry agreed that he doesn’t want to be “the banner police.” Madigan supports limiting the number of banners that can be present on a property and how long they can be up if they’re related to special events, she said.

The planners voted unanimously to table the new ordinance and reconsider it after the addition of a legal description for banners and limits on size and length of time they can be displayed. There will be another public hearing so residents have time to review and weigh-in on the proposed regulations for banners.

Comprehensive Plan

In other business, Planner Rob Albrecht-Mallinger proposed that the Plan Commission form an exploratory committee to create a plan of action for gathering public input on changes to Porter’s comprehensive plan. Town Planner Jim Mandon is slated to begin data collection as the first step in updating the 2004 comprehensive plan, which he wrote. Comprehensive plans should ideally be updated every ten years, he has said. He has proposed his research will cost up to $4,500, and the Town Council plans to work out what account that bill will be paid from this month, according to Town Council President Bill Lopez.

The exploratory committee would not be a steering committee, Albrecht-Mallinger said, but would define the process by which the steering committee and Plan Commission could best get public input in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and look for ways to complete certain tasks at lower- or no-cost through partnerships.

The planners agreed the exploratory committee should have fewer than three Plan Commission members to avoid a quorum, but that its meetings would be public, and members of the public that represent each voting ward in Porter should also be represented among the committee members. Members of the public would be able to submit a letter of intent if they’re interested in joining the exploratory committee, Madigan said.

The Planners stopped short of forming the committee yet or putting out a call for interested people so Frost can confirm the legal scope of such a committee and how it would be required to comply with the Open Door Law.

 

Posted 8/20/2020

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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