HARKER HEIGHTS — New City Manager David Mitchell joined the City Council on Tuesday for his first official meeting in his new capacity.
Mitchell hit the ground running since filling the shoes left by Steve Carpenter on Thursday.
During Tuesday’s combination workshop and meeting session, council members heard a presentation from Fred Morris, director of planning and development, regarding signage and screening, both hot-button topics from the Heights Overlay District No. 1 along Farm-to-Market 2410.
Discussed at great lengths by council members for a decade, the overlay will follow a zoning ordinance amendment and set standards for current and future buildings, parking, signage, landscaping, screening, buffering and street appearance over the next 20 years.
Going through the city’s code book with a fine-tooth comb, Morris reviewed what
ordinances are currently on the city’s books.
“The basic structure of what we have in place is 20 years old and has been updated incrementally,” Morris said. “It’s lost its focus of what we are trying to accomplish here. What we have now is ineffective and confusing. In some cases, various sections contradict and cancel each other out.”
Business owners along Farm-to-Market 2410, like Kwik Kar Lube & Tune owner Robert Kitchenmaster, said the city is against businesses by trying to put in place stricter rules and guidelines, ultimately cutting into their potential future profits.
“We are not against businesses and signage; what we are against is visual clutter,” said Mayor Mike Aycock. “We don’t want to deter signage; we just want to ensure we have the right kind of signage without getting into competition with whose sign is bigger and taller.”
Council members also brought up the signs that remain from businesses that are long gone, like Clem Mikeska’s Bar-B-Q, whose retail space is now occupied by Black Meg 43 in the Indian Trail Plaza.
“It’s a disservice to residents,” said City Councilman Hal Schiffman.
From a law enforcement perspective, Chief Mike Gentry said, vacant buildings can quickly become part of the “broken window theory” and turn into a potential haven for nefarious activities.
“I want all of our vacant buildings to appear occupied and to not become derelict,” he said.
Councilman Pat Christ said the rules governing signage and screening won’t be resolved quickly or easily, and the council will take its time to ensure items are worded and amended properly.
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