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Board of Appeals Meeting 07.20.2022 Recording and Commentary

Below you will find the recording for the Board of Appeals meeting that took place on 07/20/2022. This was the first time I’d ever sat as a representative on a government body. The subject in question (as I’d previously posted) was a new sign for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church designed and to be built by Signart.

See below for my notes related to this meeting.

I came into the meeting full well being willing to approve the variance, as it’s my belief that all things should be permissible on someone’s property, unless that thing would cause provable harm to another person. And from the position and size of the sign, it didn’t appear in my estimation that it would cause any real provable harm to any person, just as the Fall Creek School District sign doesn’t.

However, after we got into the thick of the meeting, and I listened to Marv Schmit, Jared McKee, and Tim Raap (who was sitting in an “audience of one” off-camera), I discovered that the situation was much more complex than it appeared at first. The key issue here wasn’t just the variance request, and whether or not to approve it, but whether or not the Board of Appeals had the AUTHORITY to approve such a variance, based on the size itself.

The primary ordinances in question were the following:

Bulletin boards and identification signs (on or off-site). Bulletin boards and identification signs for churches, schools and other permitted institutions and nonprofit organizations, not exceeding 32 square feet, one per zoning lot on which such use is located. Such sign shall be located entirely within the property line of the use.

268-42B

Showing that any sign of this type must be at most 32 square feet, and the notes from this section of the Village ordinances:

Area Variance: Variances permitted under this section shall be limited to the following so-called area variances: which are limited to height, bulk, setbacks, area, yard, parking, and basement requirements only.

268-70A(2)

…which basically limits from what I can see the power of the appeals board to these specific attributes of a village property. And since the “area” mentioned in the ordinance is mentioned in every other instance in the ordinances in that section as meaning essentially “the square footage of the property itself”, and with the ordinances showing no allowance for the Board of Appeals to allow for a variance for the area of the SIGN itself, I was forced to conclude that the board had no authority to issue and permit such a variation.

I don’t like it, not one bit, but I was tied by the existing laws of the land, and it is important for us, now more than ever, to respect the rule of law rather than the rule of our hearts. Because the human heart is a fickle thing and can waver from one moment to the next, while (as I stated in the meeting), the gears of government turn slowly, but DELIBERATELY. It is more important in this post-insurrection era, that we hold ourselves to the intentional mechanisms of the Law and change those laws through the proper and appropriate channels.

This is why we also moved to recommend to the Planning Commission and the Board of Trustees the following (and this will be my paraphrasing of the motions, the actual motions themselves will be in the meeting minutes to be released at a later date):

  1. For the appropriate parties to look over these ordinances and update the existing ordinances to the modern era and to be more in line with the existing signage that’s already been permitted in the Village.
  2. For the appropriate parties to reconsider section 268-70A(2) and either EXPLICITLY allow the Board of Appeals to rule on “sign area” variances or any other area variances, or to explicitly DENY this power to the Board of Appeals. There should be no legal gray area in this, and since this was an issue already, that issue should be resolved before it can be brought up again.

Now the Planning Commission and/or the Fall Creek Village Board of Trustees can meet on this, modify these ordinances further to “make room” for this sign, or modify the ordinances to give the Board of Appeals explicit permission to hear such a case, and I’ll be happy to see that new sign shining brightly on State Street.

But as it stands now, at this moment, it was not appropriate, for me at least, to make such a determination.

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2 thoughts on “Board of Appeals Meeting 07.20.2022 Recording and Commentary”

  1. Vernon Ming says:

    Are signs listed under the Zoning section of ordinances?
    Are sign sizes mentioned in the zoning requirements?
    Does the use of the word “area” pertain to lot area or sign area?
    If this group is an apeals board, what “specific appeals” can they act upon .
    Aren’t all zoning restrictions appealable from their listed guidelines?
    If the appeals board is going to just approve what the zoning ordinances explicitly restricts, what is the purpose of appeals, and why do they even consider variances of any kind?
    Should all 4 churches and schools signs in the village have been disalowed?
    At least St. Paul’s asked for an appeal of the Zoning Administrators refusal to approve.
    If the Zoning Appeals Board had no jurisdiction, the Applicant’s fee should be returned to the Appellant.
    As an adjacent property owner , notified of this request, I am acting as a concerned property owner, not as a member of St. Paul’s
    if we look at all previous Appeals to Zoning ordinances, they probably all were outside of listed restrictions.
    Who then can a property owner go to on an appeal, or do they wait till every object on a property is specifically delineated in the ordinances? Thank you for answering my question

    1. West Bennett says:

      I believe I’ve answered your questions in person Mr. Ming. Please let me know if there’s anything that I’ve missed. Thank you for your time.

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