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Signs discussed at Tuesday council meeting

MOORESVILLE - The Mooresville Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), specifically with regards to signage in town rights-of-way and property, was a topic of discussion at Tuesday night's town council meeting.

Mooresville parks superintendent Brent Callahan said that there was a sign located at the intersection of Indianapolis Road and Samuel Moore Parkway that advertised a concert series at Pioneer Park.

That sign, Callahan noted, was in violation of the town UDO but the parks was not aware it was actually in violation.

The UDO states that signs cannot be placed in public rights-of-way unless authorized by the town council or its designee.

The ordinance also bans signs from public parks.

Callahan said that the sign was a moveable-letter sign that the parks have used for a number of years to advertise different activities.

He also noted that the parks have been putting signs on its property requesting that visitors maintain a six-foot distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The parks superintendent was asking permission to reinstall the moveable letter sign to advertise park events, and to install the temporary signs that request the six-foot distance.

Mooresville Town Council President Shane Williams said that the ordinance was passed in 2018 and went into effect in 2019.

Williams said that in 2019, he was told that he could not install campaign signs on public property when he ran for his current seat.

Town councilman Dustin Stanley asked Williams who in the town told him that he could not install campaign signs on public property.

"I didn’t come to the council, I came to the administrator," Williams responded.

Williams then noted that he emailed Mooresville Building Official Tim Bennett.

The council president later noted that Mooresville Public Works Superintendent Dave Moore was the administrator.

Williams also said that it is up to the town's board of zoning appeals to grant a variance to the UDO.

Stanley then asked town councilman Tom Warthen to discuss the UDO and how it relates to signs.

Warthen said that a UDO is a living, breathing document and that when the council approved the ordinance it intended to have campaigns and political parties ask permission place signs in rights-of-way.

He also noted that campaigns did install signs in public rights-of-way through the town in 2019, just not at the island near Samuel Moore Parkway and Indianapolis Road.

"The intentions were to give a set of guidelines that 'yes you can put your political signs with the state' and they have to match the state's requirements at all times, which are also ever-changing," Warthen said.

Warthen also noted that he believes anybody should be able to put a sign on their property, as long as it meets certain standards, including the town of Mooresville.

Williams responded that the ordinance does not matter how it is interpreted, it's how it is written.

"I disagree with that," town councilman Jeff Cook responded pointing to a discussion of a nepotism policy at the July 7 meeting. "It was good before, but not today. So yesterday it was good, but not today. We're finding that out with all of these. It is how you interpret it."

Attorney Beth Copeland said that she was having a hard time believing that the UDO does not allow a Mooresville governmental entity like the parks needing to ask permission from the town council to install signage on its own property.

During the meeting, the council voted 4-1 in favor of allowing the moveable letter sign to be installed in the public right-of-way by the park.

"I'm going to vote no, because I think we need to be consistent," Williams said after the vote.

Members of the council also discussed their want to potentially amend the town's UDO concerning signs.

The council also voted to allow the parks to install signs on park property, 4-1.

"I'm voting no for the same reason, I think the ordinance needs amended," Williams said.

Public comment

Later in the meeting, local resident Justin Sprinkle discussed the recent removal of signs in town rights-of-way throughout the town — including strips of grass between a sidewalk and town street.

"This is the first time we have seen this ordinance enforced on such a grand scale," Sprinkle said. "And I think any reasonable person seeing a 'Just Be Kind' sign removed from a small garden next to a mail box or a 'Drive Slow Children Playing' sign being removed is left shaking their heads that something is wrong here."

Sprinkle argued that while a strip of grass between a sidewalk and town street may technically be a town right-of-way, it is generally maintained by the property owner on the other side of the sidewalk.

"While this current body may not be responsible for the crafting and passing of these laws, you are responsible for the decision to enforce these laws," Sprinkle said.

He thanked members of the council for wanting to look into amending the ordinance.

"We should not live in a town where you can't put a 'Just Be Kind' sign next to your mailbox," Sprinkle said. "I hope you look at that as you guys look at this ordinance in the future."

~ by Lance Gideon | Reporter | Published July 25, 2020 in The Mooresville Times

You can watch this meeting via the Town of Mooresville YouTube channel HERE

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