Village extends signage moratorium through April

By: Robin Ruehlen | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 6, 2013

BEVERLY HILLS — After several years of planning and discussion, a revised sign ordinance for the village of Beverly Hills should be in effect by mid-April. 

On Feb. 19, the Village Council voted to extend the original 180-day moratorium on sign permits by 60 days in order to allow time for the necessary notifications, public hearings and council approval.

Village Manager Chris Wilson said the Planning Commission has developed a final draft of the revisions, which was presented at a joint meeting with council Feb. 13, and has been given to council for review.

“At that time, it was discussed that the current moratorium was going to expire Feb. 18. As council wishes to avoid a scenario where a sign permit could be reviewed and accepted prior to the new ordinance taking place, there’s a resolution to extend the moratorium for 60 days,” Wilson said.

“This allows for a public hearing to be held March 19, and for adoption at the second meeting, after which it would sit for 20 days before becoming active.”

The Planning Commission did not request an extension on the site plan moratorium for the Southfield Road overlay district, Wilson added.

Last August, the council approved a 180-day moratorium on signs and site plans that fell under current codes. The moratorium was necessary to prevent what Wilson said could be a “flood” of applications to change existing commercial signage or to put in new signage under guidelines that were about to be changed.

The current moratorium will expire at midnight April 19, before which no signs requiring Planning Commission approval will be considered.

Councilman John Mooney expressed frustration at the request for a second moratorium, after what he noted was two and a half years of planning.

“I didn’t attend the joint planning commission meeting, but I daresay I could recite off the top of my head what was said — that ‘We’re still working on the ordinance and we’re very close to having it done,’ which is exactly what was said at last three joint meetings,” he said.

“I’m not criticizing the efforts of the Planning Commission, but I’m hard pressed to understand why, after two years and then six months on top of that regarding the sign ordinance, we aren’t there.”

Councilman Greg Burry said he shared Mooney’s sentiment.

“This has been dragging on for years. Something’s gotta be done,” he said.

“We can’t have a Planning Commission that operates this way. Why does it take so long to get something done here?”

Councilman and Planning Commission liaison Jon Oen countered that the majority of the work has been done by three volunteers who have had to review hundreds, if not thousands, of photos and documents in the process.

“They’re not dragging their feet — they’re doing a lot of work and a lot of research ad nauseam. They’re trying to get this right because this ordinance will be in place for the next 50 years,” he said.

“I understand the last moratorium they missed by 45-60 days, but I don’t think that’s too bad for the amount of work it took to completely rewrite the ordinance.”

Councilman Brian LaFerriere said that, while he agrees that the end product is “impressive,” he recalled getting absolute assurance that the original moratorium would not require an extension.

“I would rather not be in this position, and I think was avoidable, but I will support moving ahead with it,” he said.

Council President Tim Mercer said he would not have been in favor of extending the moratorium had he not already received a copy of the revised ordinance.

“Now that we have a new sign ordinance that we’re going to put out for a public hearing in two readings, I feel very confident that this will be done,” he said.

“This is it. If we don’t get this over the hurdle, this will not come before this board again.”

The resolution to extend the moratorium was approved 4-2, with Mooney and Burry voting against.

Planning Commission member Vince Borowski said during public comments that the subcommittee did a tremendous job on the ordinance revision.

“Upon reading it and reviewing what was there before and what is there now, and having the budget that was devoted to this thing in the past year, I think is a terrific job of addressing an important issue for Beverly Hills, and I think we’ll be better off for having this zoning ordinance amended,” he said.

“I hope at the public meeting in March that you and the public will have the opportunity to see that the offering is a worthwhile effort on everyone’s part.”