Church’s sign to remain pending appeal
With a roomful of West Haven Baptist Church parishioners before them, the Tonganoxie City Council agreed Monday the church could keep its new electronic sign in place while it makes an appeal to the Tonganoxie Board of Zoning Appeals.
Church spokesmen and parishioners attended the council meeting in response to an Aug. 18 letter informing the church the sign it installed was in violation of a stipulation the Tonganoxie Planning Commission added to its Jan. 6 approval of the church’s application for the sign.
The council left it to the church at 1000 West Street to decide exactly what it wants to appeal to the board, which will meet next at 7 p.m. Oct. 6, but agreed to waive the city requirement that planning commission decisions be appealed within 30 days. It also agreed the sign the church installed last month could stay in place until 30 days after the appeal process was completed if a ruling did not go in the church’s favor.
Mayor Justin Ward said in his view West Haven had several appeal avenues with the Board of Zoning Appeals (which has the same membership as the city’s planning commission). Ward suggested the church could:
• Appeal the citation it received last month, which states it was not in compliance with a stipulation the planning commission imposed when approving the church’s application for the sign. The stipulation forbids any flashing, blinking, reflecting, revolving or rotating elements to the sign.
• Ask that planning commissioners reconsider the section of the sign ordinance forbidding animated signs with those elements.
• Do both.
Although they later said they understood the council’s rationale for returning the issue to the planning commission, church spokesmen did say it seemed, in Rev. Mike Bronson’s words, as if the church was “caught in an endless loop.”
West Haven Baptist Church Associate Pastor Mark Scribner said he and others from the church attended the planning commission meeting Thursday only to be told that body had no authority to act and that they should take the matter to the city council.
Ward again explained that the council had to approve waiving the 30-day appeal deadline before the planning commission could review the issue. The mayor said it was important the city follow protocol so that the council not ignore planning commission decisions or set a precedent for the future.
On another matter, Scribner said the church had purchased bricks to cover the base of the sign and would soon do so soon. The work hadn’t yet been done because of the recent heat wave, he said. That would address the planning commission’s approval of a monument sign rather than a pole sign, he said.
Council members acknowledged the church has altered its use of the sign since receiving a letter from Mike Lee, the city’s code enforcement officer. It no longer scrolls, rolls or flashes, they said.
With the masonry work, it would appear as though the church has addressed non-compliance issues, Ward said.
Bronson said the change in the sign’s display and the intent to complete the masonry indicated the church’s desire to resolve the issue.
“We want to comply,” he said. “You have no idea how badly we want to get beyond this.”