City relaxes code enforcement for local businesses

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — The City of Jasper might look a little different this summer.

Businesses temporarily have a new way to draw attention to themselves and utilize the space outside their walls. Mayor Dean Vonderheide has signed an executive order suspending the enforcement of certain municipal code sections pertaining to signage and parking.

That order also permits outdoor seating and merchandise display for businesses, “allowing commercial establishments to operate in a manner that promotes social distancing and complies with previous executive orders and the governor’s plan to reopen Indiana’s economy,” a press release reads, in part.

Those changes come in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lax enforcement and new allowances will run through Aug. 31. In the future, they could be extended further.

“The motivation is to really help our local businesses kind of get back on their feet,” Vonderheide said in a Thursday phone interview. “They’ve been shut down for so long that it seemed like we ought to be able to do something to help them direct some traffic to their storefronts. Whether it’s restaurants, retail or whatever.”

A full description of the temporary enforcement changes are listed below.

Sandwich board signs

The restriction, requiring that sandwich board signs be located within 10 feet of the main entrance of the business for which it is established shall not be enforced.

Sandwich board signs shall be limited to one sign displayed on any premises used for business purposes, so long as: The sign does not exceed 4 feet in height, 2 feet in width or eight 8 square feet in area; and the sign is not illuminated.

Pennants

The restriction that pennants may be used no more than 30 days during any three-month period shall not be enforced.

Pennants shall be allowed so long as they do not extend into a public way. Also, the restriction prohibiting pennants from being used in conjunction with banners or other exempt signage shall not be enforced.

Banners

Previous restrictions limiting the use of banners to no more than 14 days during any two-month period, shall not be enforced.

Banners, for commercial uses only, shall be allowed so long as: They do not extend into a public way; they do not exceed one per property, or one per business (where more than one
business is located on a property); and they do not exceed 45 square feet in face area.

In addition, up to three yard signs, not larger than 2-by-2 each, may be used in lieu of a banner, but not in combination with a banner.

Prohibited signs

The following types of signs that are ordinarily prohibited shall be allowed: Portable signs, inflatable signs, characters, feather banners “and the like.”

However, such signs must comply with the following restrictions: They may not extend into the public way; and they may not exceed one per property, or one per business (where more than one business is located on a property).

Outdoor seating

In addition to the signage enforcement changes, the extension of restaurants outdoors, over public sidewalks, is also permitted — with approval from the city planning department and the mayor, and the meeting of social distancing requirements. The aim of this is to safely increase capacity.

Sidewalk sales are also allowed under the same conditions.

According to the city’s press release, nothing in this executive order permits signage in the right of way or to be displayed in a manner that would negatively affect the visibility of traffic or otherwise cause a safety concern.

Vonderheide stressed the importance of local businesses and their contributions to the community. These measures, he said, are aimed at lifting them up.

“This seemed very reasonable,” Vonderheide said of the changes. “Seemed like something we could do without going into a huge expense. But it could be beneficial to local businesses, and to especially promote to buy local. It’s critical that people consider their local storefronts versus online shopping and delivery.”

In Huntingburg, Mayor Denny Spinner said that a street utilization plan is being developed for the city. He said it should be ready for presentation at the next Board of Public Works meeting, which will take place at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.




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