By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - A new sign ordinance has been under construction and numerous revisions have been made over the past three years. With the most recent copy of the ordinance ready, the next step was to schedule a public hearing.
But at Monday's city council meeting, there were still a few questions raised by council members that need to be answered before they can move forward with the hearing.
City Manager Jordan Stanchina presented the council with an updated copy of the ordinance following a joint meeting between the city council and Iron Mountain Planning Commission. He was hoping that they could set a public hearing for the second meeting in February.
Both Mayor Bruce Rosen and Councilman Dale Alessandrini still had questions about the section dealing with projecting nameplate signs. The new proposed ordinance allows for one sign, but it can't extend beyond three feet six inches from the building wall.
"This proposed ordinance has been thoroughly discussed and changes made that were suggested after the last meeting of the council and Planning Commission. The city attorney advises that we fully repeal the existing sign ordinance and put this one into effect in its final version," Stanchina told the council.
He added that he felt that a public hearing needed to be set to move the process forward.
The 56-page ordinance, said Councilman Ted Corombos, is longer than the current city charter.
"It is, but adding to the length were pictures of each sign. It's easier to explain with the pictures and makes it more user-friendly," Stanchina said.
Rosen said that he was against the section dealing with the projecting nameplates noting that it is a maximum of three feet six inches is far too restrictive. "Many businesses are not in the downtown area or have sidewalks near them."
"We have to have some uniformity and there are variances that can be given," Stanchina said.
Alessandrini agreed with Rosen and noted that the size is not very big for a sign of this type especially if the business is not located downtown. "I don't like this ordinance at all or think we need it," Alessandrini said.
Rosen agreed that this seemed more geared toward businesses in the downtown area. "I'm out of this ordinance at my business and a lot of businesses in the community will also not be in conformity with it."
Councilman Bob Moraska noted that this was for businesses located in B-2 and B-1 zoning. "Where they are at and due to setback requirements, they can't have a free standing sign," Moraska said.
Alessandrini noted that to get a variance and go before the zoning board, you have to pay $300.
Stanchina disagreed noting that if it fits within special conditions of the ordinance, a business owner can come to the city manager and make some adjustments. He said that he would check into the maximum size of the protecting nameplate signs and see if that was a uniform size.
"The whole concept is to put some uniformity with signs in the city. I'm sure the city can be flexible if it doesn't comply to this exactly. Every case has to be evaluated on its merits and decided," said Councilman Collin Jacobetti.
"That segment of the ordinance (nameplate signs) and the size of three feet six inches maximum is the core issue I have with this and something that is just wrong," Rosen said.
Within the ordinance, a business owner can go before a committee that includes the city manager, zoning administrator and a planning board member to discuss a reduction in a setback requirement, or 10 percent more on the size of a sign, Stanchina added.
Stanchina will research the size issue and report back to council before a hearing is scheduled.
Mid-year budget amendments presented Monday by Carol Bartolameoli, chief financial officer, and Stanchina received approval from the council.
Revenue changes include charges for services increasing by $10,025, which includes a $7,000 increase in sale of cemetery lots and $3,025 as an increase to fire protection. This comes from the payment from the state of Michigan for fire protection services for Bay College, and is a new revenue source, Bartolameoli said.
Interest earnings decreased by $5,000 and was based on year-to-date earnings and investments currently owned by the general fund. In the area of other revenues, the amendment shows a decrease of $5,000. This is a decrease in employee contributions to health insurance of $10,000 coupled with an increase of $5,000 in miscellaneous reimbursements.
"Dividend credits from Workmen's Compensation make up the majority of miscellaneous reimbursements revenues. Other financing sources have been increased $528,750, of which $525,158 is a contribution from TIFA and represents the closing of that fund's assets to the general fund," according to Bartolameoli's the memo to the council.
On the expenditure side, general government increased by $10,983, which includes $6,983 in the data processing department for unbudgeted expenditures of a server and back-up drive and $4,000 in the elections department to cover expenditures for the February additional election costs.
In addition, the general government area had been decreased by $79,319 and a new function, planning and community development area was added for costs related to zoning/code enforcement activities for the same amount.
In other financing uses, there was a decrease of $25,442. This is a decrease to the general fund's contribution to the health insurance fund for retiree health insurance. This occurred due to the deaths of three retirees who had their insurance paid for by the general fund.
As a result of the amendments, the fiscal year deficit decreased from $138,492 to $120,258. The estimated unreserved fund balance at June 30 will increase from $1,349,821 to $1,368,055.
"We've made some major strides over the past couple of years with the budget, but it doesn't change the fact that we are running a deficit budget," Rosen said.
Stanchina agreed. "We've had a tough time right now, but we are slowly moving some funds up from zero."
A report was also given at Monday's meeting concerning the recent Consolidated Services Committee. Now the police and fire chiefs and Kingsford's director of Public Safety will be sitting down with the two city managers to discuss what they think will work with a consolidation of services.
"It's slowly moving, but we've made progress and found some common ground," Stanchina said.
Rosen disagreed. "It's been 3 1/2 years now and I'm losing patience." Stanchina added that they have broken past some original barriers to consolidation of services. "There's still a big one to beat before we get any further."
In other action, the council:
- Agreed to set a public hearing date for Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. concerning the purchase of a squad car for the police department using Rural Development funds. The total estimated cost of the vehicle is $34,300 with Rural Developing picking up $8,000.
- Approved giving the administration the ability to seek the best rate for natural gas for the city not to exceed the rate of .459 per CCF or two years in length.
- Heard from Stanchina that the Collaborative Plan was submitted by the Feb. 1 deadline to the state. He noted that this is where the city must prove itself to the state to get revenue sharing monies. The city must show that it is working collaboratively with other municipalities.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.