Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

October 16, 2012

Council enters long discussions about signs and backyard amenities

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Knoxville — The Knoxville City Council had the approval of a new sign ordinance and an ordinance regarding accessory structures on its agenda last night, but both left the council with many questions. 

The first reading of the sign ordinance was approved, though more changes will be made. Assistant City Manager Dylan Feik wrote the new ordinance to try to simplify the process of sign placement in Knoxville. 

Council members were concerned about the amount of information in the sign ordinance and wanted to take more time to ensure that they full understood it, as well as offer their constituents the chance to review the ordinance on their own. Feik has copies of the ordinance available at City Hall. 

Resident Brian Kendall asked the council how they will address enforcing new requirements and how that will be paid for.

"I don't see how the enforcement or cost of the enforcement will change," Feik said. He, the community service office and building inspector will likely be the ones to enforce the sign ordinance. 

The sign ordinance issue arose when the Knoxville School District requested to install a new, monumental sign at the high school. Upon inspection, Feik found that they could not do that, according to code. Navigating the areas where signs are addressed in the current code was also complicated. 

"We need to get this done," Councilor Dave Roozeboom said. Footings for the school's monumental sign can be poured without the ordinance being in effect. Roozeboom and others wanted to ensure that the sign could be installed before the ground froze. 

A short time later in the council meeting, an ordinance regarding accessory structures (hot tubs, pools, arbors, sheds, etc.) came up for discussion. Feik said the code is unclear regarding how to deal with these things, and the process for residents to have them approved is difficult and lengthy. Feik wants to shorten the permit process.

Mayor Don Zoutte asked if people can put barns in their back yards, on skids. Feik said most people intend for those to be permanent, and if an adjacent property owner calls and complains about the placement, moving the barn could create an unfair burden to the owner. 

The building permit process is intended to avoid any such difficulties. By coming into City Hall, staff can review what the property owner wants to do and where they want to place the accessory structure. Staff can then let people know if there would be a problem.

"If they come in and ask for a building permit, they shouldn't have to pay for it," Councilor April Verwers said. Feik said the City is not looking for money, but when staff takes the time to do these inspections and research, the costs for their time should be recouped. 

"I think in the long run, they're trying to save the home owner some anguish," Roozeboom said. 

Because the council could not make decisions on these issues, and one other, it scheduled a special meeting for Monday, Oct. 22, at 6:15 p.m. 

In other council action, Zoutte swore in Knoxville's newest police officer, Kyle Eastwood. Look for more on Eastwood, and full reports on the council, in the Oct. 19 Journal-Express.