- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—A difference of opinion quickly was skirted during the Burlington City Council meeting Monday, but not before some slip showed concerning the code changes the city has made and is making to legalize a sign on Bracewell Stadium property.

Councilman Bob Fleming and Mayor Shane McCampbell said they were concerned changing the school property from residential to commercial, then changing the sign code to allow smallish sponsorship signs with no setback requirements may be a bridge too far, leading to too many billboards in Burlington.

McCampbell asked Burlington Development and Parks Director Eric Tysland what he thought.

“The staff did not recommend this sign change,” he said. “We thought there was a sign code in place,” he said, trailing off, but implying code should have been followed.

Tysland also said the Bracewell Stadium site will be the only school property in the city not zoned residential.

Residential zones don’t allow billboards, therefore schools cannot use sponsorship signs to raise money, until now. Schools now can expect the same treatment Bracewell Stadium likely will get; a zone change and the right to erect 12-foot-high signs with 25 square feet on each face, of which 51 percent can identify the school and 49 percent names a sponsor.

But the sponsorship sign is not limited to schools. Tysland said any commercial property can erect a sponsorship sign, making money by advertising off-site businesses.

Councilman Tim Scott asked why an institutional zone had not been created instead.

“I think it would offer potential savings for taxpayers,” he said, since schools could raise money by selling sponsorship sign space.

Tysland said it would involve “a major overhaul of the zoning code” since no such zone exists, and cross-referencing touches every part. He said such a zone would not just include schools but public buildings and conference facilities, for example, and major land-use changes would take careful consideration.

“I think a sign like this ought to be celebrated,” Scott said, repeating Universal Therapy Group is donating $250,000 to Bracewell Stadium’s renovation. “It shows the commitment of a business to the area.”

“I don’t buy that,” Fleming said.

He asked Tysland if Universal is giving the money based on the use of the sign for five years. Tysland confirmed that’s what has been stated in prior meetings.

Tysland told Scott institutions are allowed in C-1 zones and therefore can have sponsorship signs.

McCampbell asked Tysland if he thought the sign code and zone changes will have much impact on sign proliferation.

Tysland said he didn’t know.

McCampbell noted the Aug. 3 meeting will be the first reading of the sign code change ordinance and the second reading of the zoning change ordinance, and further discussion is possible.

The city staff and various city boards have expended time and effort to accommodate this sign.

Burlington City Planner Charlie Nichols did two comprehensive studies comparing zoning and sign code among several cities.

Twice the Burlington Zoning Board of Adjustment heard requests for variances on the sign, tabling and rehearing the requests.

The city changed the sign code about a year ago, allowing institutions to have identification signs 15 feet high instead of the previous 6-foot height.

The city is in the process of hearing the zone change and another sign code change. If the zone change goes through, then the city also will have to change the comprehensive plan, since the Bracewell Stadium area states C-3, not C-1 commercial uses should be in this area in the future land-use map.

In total, four local laws will have been changed going to several public hearings at the planning commission and city council level.


(c)2015 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

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