County seeks public comment on proposed sign ordinance changes

Brian Larsen

In a sign of the times, Cook County Planning and Zoning Director Tim Nelson came before the Cook County Board of Commissioners on June 14 with a draft of a new sign ordinance for Cook County.

Called Cook County Sign Ordinance Number 53, the intent of the ordinance is to “regulate signs of commercial nature that are intended to be viewed from any vehicular or pedestrian right-of-way.”

Nelson said the purpose of the document is to protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the unincorporated areas of Cook County, “through establishment of minimum requirements and for the regulation of the type, placement, use, display, scale and maintenance of signs.

“It is not the purpose or intent of this ordinance to regulate the message displayed on any sign,” he said.

This hasn’t been a quick process, said Nelson. Several years ago the board of commissioners authorized a committee to develop and update the county’s sign ordinance, but the process was delayed due to the land use guide plan project and a Supreme Court case decision, he said.

Nelson asked the board to authorize a public hearing that will take place with the planning commission on Wednesday, July 13 at 5 p.m.

“We are introducing a whole new sign ordinance that is a much cleaner document to read and review,” he said.

“This is just a step in the process. We need to post it to start the public process,” he added.

Instead of dealing with content, the sign ordinance committee looked more at the size of signs, color, and where signs can be placed, Nelson said.

“This is a distinct and down to earth guide for signs in Cook County,” said Commissioner Ginny Storlie, who added, “A good job well done.”

Commissioner Frank Moe said he couldn’t support the ordinance as written because the penalty phase would treat those breaking the ordinance like “drunk drivers, someone who sells drugs or has committed assault.” Moe said, “This seems onerous to me.”

Actually, said Nelson, the new proposed sign ordinances are less onerous in the penalty phase than the current sign ordinance that now exists.

Commissioner Garry Gamble made a motion to hold a public meeting on the proposed sign ordinance changes on July 13 at 5 p.m. in the commissioner’s room so the public could comment on it. His motion that was seconded by Board Chair Heidi Doo-Kirk, but before it went to a final vote Gamble said to Moe, “I support your position in this [sign ordinance document] that it is being over regulated.”

“I’m just agreeing to go forward with the process,” said Commissioner Jan Sivertson who voted with Storlie, Gamble and Doo-Kirk to have the public meeting.

“A lot of this is really complicated,” Sivertson said. “Fluorescent signs were popular in the 1970s. It’s hard to regulate taste.”

Revolving Loan approved for Hedstrom Lumber

Hedstrom Lumber Company was approved for a loan from the county’s Revolving Loan Fund of $190,968.02 for 10 years at a market rate with a second position on the business assets.

Hedstrom Lumber currently has a revolving loan balance of $59,031.98 and with the new one it will now go to the maximum of $250,000.

The purpose of the loan is to help in the rebuilding of the sawmill and upgrading and modernizing equipment so Hedstrom Lumber can stay competitive in the lumber market. Hedstrom Lumber is currently undergoing a $2.9 million upgrade to its facilities, with about 25 percent of that work completed. County to continue Firewise work

This year the county will receive $32,567.67 in Superior National Forest Title III Funding that is used for the Firewise Communities Program to educate homeowners in Firewise techniques.

The county board is proposing use of $10,000 of that money to reimburse the county for money spent for emergency services in Superior National Forest and $22,56 2.67 for a coordinator to work towards creation and sustaining Firewise Communities in the county.

Any public comments on use of Firewise funds should be directed to County Auditor Braidy Powers at New recycling trailers

After some discussion the board approved the purchase of two semi-trailers to replace the broken and worn-out recycling trailers at a cost of no more than $10,000 each.

Planning and Zoning Director Nelson told the board that in the last few months the two oldest trailers “have cracked frames and are no longer road worthy.”

The money to pay for the trailers will come from the Future Landfill Development Fund which still has $24,000 in it, said Nelson, who made the request.

Election judge pay increased

Election judges will now be paid $12 per hour, a $2 an hour raise. The last time they received a raise was 1996 when they went from $7 per hour to $10 per hour. Auditor/Treasurer Braidy Powers, who said that no one asked for the raise, brought the request to the board. He said that af.ter looking at what other counties paid their election judges, he felt it was time to make a request for more money.

Powers said the hike in pay would only cost the county “$400 to $500 more a year.”

Only Board Chair Doo-Kirk had pause for thought before voting for the increase. “This bothers me a little because we have some full-time employees making less than this,” she said.

In other business

. The board approved a motion to grant Sawtooth Mountain Clinic $4,000 for reimbursement of preengineering and Safe Routes to School application assistance.

. Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen came before the board with a request to have the 2015 Operation Stone Garden Grant approved for $80, 673. This is an annual grant to the county. Half of the grant is used to pay overtime for county police officers to patrol along the northern border and assist at the border, said Eliasen. The other half the money will be used to purchase equipment and support the mission of the Border Patrol.

. Also approved was a motion to allow the Grand Marais Lions Club the use of the county’s upper auxiliary parking lot for overflow parking during the Fisherman’s Picnic.

. At the request of the County Assessor’s Office, the board approved abatements for Mathew and Darcy Ziller, Marcia Hovland and George B. Peet Jr., and Darcy G. Peet. Hovland’s homestead designation was accidentally removed from the 2015 assessments and taxes payable for 2016. The Peets’ abatements were due to a tax court settlement and clerical error. Ziller’s homestead should have been granted for 2014 for the assessment/taxes payable for 2015.

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