I was extremely disappointed to learn that our City Council chose to proceed with approval of a variance for a new sign proposed by the Stripes Corporation. The sign will be placed in front of its new store at 13th and 281. Given all the new information provided to them, it seems that the prudent thing to do would have been to table this issue for further evaluation and public input. Considering that construction has not even started, and that this sign will be very prominent in our town, this rush to approval without more thoughtful consideration cannot be considered in Blanco's best interest. I too initially felt pressure to act, but with time and new information, changed my position. Perhaps the Council, too, will reconsider with more public input. I am especially concerned about the disregard of public process on this issue, and would like to share the following letter, presented to the City Council on Tuesday, September 14.
Mr. Mayor and Council Members:
[I] request that you deny the Stripes variance or send the item back to Planning and Zoning for a more thorough evaluation and recommendation. While the information about sign size is sufficiently compelling, more important is the issue of process. As you know, nothing is more important in public policy than a full and open process with participation from an informed and interested citizenry.
As I had time to think about the recent P&Z meeting and the way in which this item was considered combined with comments made to me by those in attendance, I regret that I did not move to table this matter.
Being new to the Commission, I simply was not adequately prepared for such a significant issue at my first meeting. Here are the areas of concern regarding process:
1) Information about the specifics of the Stripes proposal was not made available to members before the meeting. While this may have been due to the Monday holiday, it never the less created a lack of time for study and thoughtful consideration by the Commissioners.
2) There is a discrepancy between the description on the agenda item and the rendering of the sign. The agenda states that the sign will be 12 feet wide and 10 feet high. The rendering shows the sign to be 10 feet wide and 12 feet high. The description says "64 square feet of sign" but if gas prices are placed below, that is not accurate. This means that it is impossible for the Commissioners to be certain of what they approved. This alone warrants reconsideration.
3) Finally, there was no member of the Stripes Corporation present to discuss or explain this request. Again, in retrospect, it is totally inappropriate for a city employee or contractor to serve as the representative of an entity with business before the city. This matter should be reconsidered by P&Z only with a Stripes representative present to explain and answer questions.
With this information in mind, I respectfully ask that you table any Council consideration of the Stripes sign variance and send the matter back to Planning and Zoning for its October agenda.
I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, but I am certain that you would want to know my concerns, as I believe you respect the "process" as much as I do. I commit to you to be much more vigilant in my future deliberations. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication.
Connie Barron, Member
Planning and Zoning Commission