AUSTIN EDITION --AUSTIN CITY COUNCIL Council balks at $6,000 welcome sign
Members object to size and cost
By Jim Troyer
For the Post-Bulletin
A majority of Austin City Council members apparently put economy ahead of their desire to welcome Austin visitors Monday.
By a 4-to-3 vote the council rejected a motion that would have cleared the way for construction of a 12-by-18-foot sign along Interstate 90. The site is planned for Hormel Nature Center property between the 21st and 28th Street overpasses.
Voting against the motion were Dick Pacholl, Pete Christopherson, Gloria Nordin and Tracey Chamberlain. The action could keep the city from spending close to $6,000.
It was the size of the proposed sign that brought the question to the floor, not money.
During its Sept. 9 meeting, the Austin City Planning Commission unanimously approved the city's request to override a size limitation of the city ordinance that would have prohibited the sign. According to code, a sign in that area can't measure more than 24 square feet. The proposal is for a 216-square-foot sign -- a difference of 192 square feet. The city code also says the sign can only be 12 feet high.
"This troubles me," said Chamberlain. "I'm not sure what kind of an example that sets. If we are going to have an ordinance that controls signage, we ought to follow it ourselves."
Community Development Director Craig Hoium pointed out that the location is adjacent to the airport, nature center, and farm fields.
"I don't think it will be offensive to surrounding areas," he said.
"The ordinance is there to allow us to take a look at a sign to see whether it is fitting," Councilman Lynn Koch argued. "In this case it makes good sense to make an exception."
"I'm not opposed to the sign, but to the timing," said Christopherson. He argued that spending city money on the sign was not a good idea at a time when the city is considering raising taxes.
"We are talking about a 'want' here rather than a 'need.' We've got to start tightening our own belts."
Pacholl agreed, "I'm not feeling good about spending money on it right now."
The proposed community entrance sign has been in the planning stages since last year. Funding help has been promised by local service clubs, the Hormel Foundation and a private citizen as well as the city.
An Aug. 15 memo from Hoium to the mayor and city council projected construction costs for the project at $14,873. Of that amount, service clubs would contribute $2,900, the Hormel Foundation $5,000, and a citizen $1,000, leaving a budget shortfall of $5,973.
Design for the sign was done by Precision Signs of Austin and uses the city's tree symbol and "Growing Together" motto.