Council fails to undo Soldotna sign ordinance veto

Administration asked to rewrite measure to grandfather in existing signs

Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2007

An attempt to override the mayor’s veto of a Soldotna sign ordinance failed Wednesday night, and city council members sent the measure back to city administration for a rewrite.

Council member Shane Horan moved to override Mayor Dave Carey’s veto of Ordinance 2006-35, an amendment to the city code regulating freestanding signs in the city’s commercial district.

Horan, however, failed to muster the required four votes needed to override. Council members Ed Sleater, Jane Stein and Scott McLane, as well as ex-officio student member Tashina Wortham-Turnbull, voted against the motion. Only Horan and council member Betty Obendorf voted in favor. Council member Jim Stogsdill was absent.

In making his motion, Horan said he supported the ordinance as being “timely, generous, reasonable and fair,” and it protected the health, safety, aesthetics and economic welfare of the city.

During four public hearings conducted on the ordinance by the council, a number of Soldotna business owners expressed their opposition to the ordinance, saying it was unnecessary and costly to the businesses, which would have been required to spend large sums of money in order to bring their signs into compliance with the new rules.

The ordinance would have lowered the freestanding sign height limit from 35 to 20 feet, and would have prohibited the placement of signs within 20 feet of the curb.

Norm Blakeley, co-owner of Blakeley’s Auction Co., had said the 20-foot setback requirement would have made the city’s own sign at City Hall noncompliant, and to move it would be an unnecessary expenditure of taxpayers’ money.

In making his motion to override, Horan noted that City Hall is not included in the commercial district. It is in the institutional zone and not impacted by the proposed sign ordinance.

Despite the illusion that the city’s marquee sign is inside the 20-foot setback, it is exactly 20 feet from the curb. The brick flower box around the base of the sign extends into the 20-foot margin. If the sign and flower box were in the commercial zone, that would be allowed.

Horan acknowledged it would be easier for the council to grandfather in all existing signs and ask newcomers to comply with the new regulations, but he expressed his fear that the city staff, Planning and Zoning Commission and the council would be subjected to repeated questions of fairness by allowing an older business to be out of compliance while insisting a new business complies.

He said he respects the mayor for making the difficult decision of vetoing the measure, and Horan said he has praise for the city staff, planning and zoning, the council and the public.

“This is democracy at work,” Horan said.

However, he said he planned to override the mayor’s veto because, “I sincerely think the proposed sign ordinance will ultimately serve our city of Soldotna quite well.”

Following the failed vote to override, McLane asked that city administration bring back a sign ordinance with language grandfathering in existing signs. Sleater and Stein echoed his sentiments.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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