Vote on the BCN Poll by clicking BCN/Topics to the right.
You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows… well, I guess I do, Mr. Dylan. I’m not sure what the new sign for the Blanco Luxury Suites means for our town. Do we want to embrace a small Texas Hill Country town feel, a suburban enclave of a large city or an area with no direction at all? My wife and I have only lived in Blanco seven years, so maybe I don’t understand how things work here. To me, though, I’d sure like to know why–assuming we’re all “equal” in Blanco–why some of us are more equal than others?
Personally, I believe we should embrace the city codes we have on the books, as well as future ordinances under consideration. These codes lean toward less intrusive roadside signs, which enhance our community. Like many, our family moved here for the “small town feel.” Some of my friends and a group of folks from Cielo Springs feel the same way. But some local government officials have told my friends that we’re in the minority. Can that be true?
Last month, our business–The Blanco County Inn–was denied a variance to the current sign ordinance at the city council meeting. To make a point and allow for adequate competition in business, I’d requested a sign the same size as one for the Blanco Luxury Suites, which measures 20 feet high and 120 square feet. The hotel got its variance because supposedly “street signs” must be proportionate to the building’s size. However, there’s nothing in the current sign ordinance that addresses this type measurement of a sign.
“A city simply cannot pass procedural ordinances they expect to be followed by their residents and then conveniently ignore them themselves. A legislative body must substantially comply with its own procedural policies.” Potocki v. City of Fort Smith, 279 Ark.19, 648 S.W. 2d 462, 464 (1983). (emphasis added)
At January’s Planning and Zoning meeting, I asked if this type of measurement was going to be included and was told no. Councilman Bobby McClung said the council had discussed this ordinance months ago. The only reference I can find in our city code addresses signs affixed to the side of a building, not a street sign.
Mayor Chuck Homan told me that he didn’t vote on the sign; either for or against. Rightfully so, the mayor only votes to break a tie. However, shouldn’t the position of Mayor, be one who is leading us through these types of controversies. A few of our city councilmen have said they don’t use the Unified Development Code but make their decisions based on personal views. Time after time, the council thanks P&Z members for all their hard work. However, at every turn, they don’t seem to care what the UDC says and overturn the P&Z’s decisions. Is this the type of leadership we need for our community? And what is the purpose of having the P&Z doing all of this work, if they’re not being taken seriously?
Dripping Springs’ sign ordinance is what our P&Z is using as a model for our new proposed sign ordinance. According to that city’s sign administrator, for a business to do what Luxury Suites did might be possible to a degree. However, there would be many things that would need to be done, but suffice it to say it would be a compromise. Did you ever wonder how Bulverde got their public library? In this type of situation, often businesses give land or money for public needs to get the variances they want. Our community could use a new public pool, tennis court or park. This is a way some businesses can be more “equal.” Having said all this, Dripping Springs still does not allow street signs 20-foot-high with 120 square feet of signage in their city.
In my opinion, with nothing mentioned in the UDC regarding proportion to the size of street sign and size of the establishment, this leaves the city open to more requests for variances. Currently, a business is allowed a sign on each street if they are located are on a corner. Does that mean you can have two 20-foot signs? Is size determined by surface area, foundation size or total square feet? As you see, there is still a lot of fuzz on this peach. Do you think those people in Cielo Springs want to drive out of their subdivision and see a 40-foot, 240-square-foot “BigMart” sign? I can already hear the “BigMart” attorneys saying, “Why should we help the city get a new tennis court when no one else has had to invest in Blanco to get a sign?”
In closing, I have nothing against Mr. Patel at the Blanco Luxury Suites. Anyone can ask the city for a variance. I hold no ill will toward the city council either. I applaud anybody who, year after year, spends their free time to work on our behalf. I just think they made a lapse in judgment if our vision as a community is to embrace our “small town appeal.” If the city wants a suburban look, then let’s allow all the businesses in town to have big signs.
My hope is that this issue matters to you, fellow Blanconians. Please go to www.blancocountynews.com/topics/ and cast your vote/comment in the newspaper’s poll. And please let me know if I’m barking up the wrong tree!