After many Kerrville residents expressed concerns over the newly rewritten sign code, Kerrville City Council voted 4 to 1 to pass the code’s first reading at Tuesday’s meeting with one exception: Electronic sign messages must maintain an eight-second display time.
Council member Kim Clarkson was the disapproving vote; she said that she supports the code rewrite, but there were too many aspects of it that she wants to see addressed or changed for her to accept it at this time.
The code rewrite process began in October 2018 with a 15-member Code Review Committee. The goal of the project was to make the code clearer to eliminate any confusion for those using it.
Cory Traub, a sign business owner, said this goal was not accomplished.
“It’s harder to read now than what it was,” Traub said. “My question is, what was the point of wasting all of these committee members’ time and effort, not to mention the cost of it, to end up with the same ordinance we had before, with more convoluted language?”
Traub added that he is worried the code won’t be enforced equally, with an electronic Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce sign that was allowed, in error, to stand, even though it doesn’t fit regulations. After finding the error, the sign was still allowed to stand if only a part of it was turned on.
Kerrville resident William Rector said he feels the code is fair.
“Business friendly, in my book, is a city that has clear, concise and easy-to-understand rules that are equally applied to everybody,” Rector said. “The mayor asked for a business-friendly piece of legislation, and I believe what we’re adopting is just that.”
Many at the meeting, including Rector, said they were concerned about the affect electronic signs would have on light pollution.
“We must make sure (the code) is dark-sky friendly,” Rector said. “How many of us grew up in Kerrville and looked up at the night and saw millions of specks of light making up the Milky Way?”
For monument and freestanding electronic signs, including billboards, the code calls for a maximum of 32 square feet of electronic signage. They would be allowed only if they were within 100 feet and visible from a major thoroughfare or highway. The code would require electronic signs to have an automatic dimmer that turns the sign darker when the sky is darker, said Drew Paxton, executive director of development services.
Freestanding signs, electronic displays and feather signs would not be allowed within the Downtown Arts and Culture District, which includes the downtown core and surrounding areas.
One issue that wasn’t resolved was how the code allows electronic signs to be framed.
The rewritten code reads that the signs would be required to have six inches of framing on all sides, but Paxton said he wanted to bring the subject to council, since it is ultimately an aesthetic issue.
That concerned a Kerrville resident and former city councilman George Baroody.
“It’s personal preference,” Baroody said. “Is that really something that we should be legislating anyways? Consider removing it, and let the signs be what they are.”
Mayor Bill Blackburn said he hopes to have these issues addressed before the second and final reading of the new code.
BUDGET & TAX RATE APPROVED
The council also approved the fiscal year 2020 budget and tax rate — $0.54 per $100 of property valuation, which will bring an increase in tax revenue compared to last year — and a planned development district near Holdsworth Drive.