by Cori Hilsgen
After much review and discussion, the St. Joseph City Council denied a request for a special-use permit for the refacing of an existing static billboard sign located at 320 Old Highway 52.
At its last meeting, the council on a 1-3-1 vote denied the permit based on various ordinances and facts, including the proposed dynamic sign increases and extends the existing size of the sign, it is a non-conforming use because it’s in a residential district and the lighting of the dynamic sign is in violation because the source of the light shines directly on a residential district.
Several people attended the meeting and spoke both in favor of and against the sign request. Nancy Ebel opposed the permit and said billboards can lower the value of properties. Troy Rheaume, Joe Pfannenstein and Mark Warnert spoke in favor of the updated sign. Rheaume said he was having a hard time understanding why the council was requesting so much information and said he felt they were singling out this request. Rheaume said they would be willing to work with the city in any way they could. He asked the council to “please be fair.”
Council member Steve Frank said there was a general consensus among the St. Joseph Economic Development Authority and city council and planning commission for no billboards. He spoke of a long history in St. Joseph of wanting to limit billboards and said the council is not intending to pick on any one person. He referred to St. Joseph Code of Ordinances 52.11, Subd. 12, and Minnesota statute section 462.357, Subd.1e regarding non-conforming use and more.
Mayor Rick Schultz had asked city attorney Tom Jovanovich to review other municipalities that may have allowed signs. Jovanovich detailed his search and gave examples of actions taken by the cities of Minnetonka and Arden Hills.
Council member Bob Loso questioned the increase in size of the sign based on square footage versus volume and questioned the zoning of the property and how it’s taxed.
Administrator Judy Weyrens said taxation and zoning are two different issues. She said the property owners are taxed on how they use the property.
Loso voted in favor of the permit and Schultz abstained from voting.
Council members discussed the ordinances that applied to the request and consulted with Jovanovich for clarification.