Three issues dominated Monday’s Public Safety & Welfare Meeting

The Public Safety & Welfare Committee met on Monday night.  All five committee members were in attendance.  The three major items of discussion were the need for an ordinance regarding accessory building exemptions for residential properties, the principal sponsorship of ordinances and resolutions, and the request that the city attorney draft an outdoor billboard ordinance.

Regarding the first item, apparently, there are constituents in several districts who wish to expand the size of their garages beyond the 840 square foot limit currently in place.  Some have properties greater than one acre, and some do not.  Alderperson Michael Orth felt that the size of the garage needed to be proportional to the size of the house on the property, or else it will look out of place.  Paula Blise, zoning coordinator, pointed out that the second page of the proposed ordinance discussed scale size.  It needed to be “subordinate to the principal structure, approved by the alderperson of the district, approved by all neighbors within 100 feet, and architecturally designed.”  Orth recalled a situation in his district a year ago where none of the neighbors were being “reasonable.”  In fact, his statement was “the word reasonable equals neighborhood dispute.” 

Blise explained the current process of the Zoning Board of Appeals.  The only time that the Zoning Board gets involved is when the property owner doesn’t have the reasonable use of his/her land.  In the instance of vacant land, for example, there has to be a problem with the land, not an issue with the amount of space a homeowner has for his car collection.  Alderperson Anthony Kennedy was not in support of this ordinance.  The committee voted to defer this item for thirty days, as well as three other agenda items.  The other items had to do with the disclosure of health care costs (deferred for 30 days), certificate of occupancy prohibitions (deferred for two weeks), and establishing a Mayor’s Commission on the Arts (also deferred for 30 days).       

The second issue which raised an extensive discussion at the meeting last night was the ordinance regarding the principal sponsorship of ordinances and resolutions.  Kennedy didn’t understand the need for this ordinance and stated that he would not be in support of it.  This ordinance proposed that the sponsor of an ordinance is the one in control.  Any co-sponsors can make changes to the ordinance or resolution, but they must go through the principal sponsor.  The current process provides that co-sponsors cannot make any changes unless all approve it.  The principal sponsor hereby loses control.  The proposed ordinance maintains control for the principal sponsor. 

Alderperson Michael Orth wanted the last sentence stricken from the ordinance.  He felt that it “went too far.”  City attorney Ed Antaramian answered several questions the committee members had.  Then, the committee voted to approve the ordinance by a vote of 4 to 1.  Kennedy voted against.  This ordinance is also being reviewed by other committees:  the Public Works Committee, Stormwater Committee, Finance, Committee, and the Licensing/Permit Committee. 

The last item of discussion was the request that the city attorney draft an outdoor billboard ordinance.  Two outdoor sign companies had representatives at the meeting:  Jason Saari, real estate manager of Adams Outdoor Advertising, and Mark Rausch, vice president, real estate and public affairs of Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising.  Both representatives expressed their anticipation in working with the city and the Common Council.  Saari stated that the lawsuit with the city would be dismissed.

City attorney Antaramian was given the following guidelines to include in the draft:  it must retain the current number of billboards, allow for upgrades, the alderperson of the district must give his/her approval of digital billboards and hold a neighborhood meeting, and it must include restrictions based on traffic and residential neighborhoods. 

Orth urged all citizens to be safe this weekend, and Chairman Jesse Downing stated that he’ll be asking the police department to bring on extra patrols to conduct saturation patrols similar to those conducted two years ago.

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