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— The Planning and Zoning Commission granted a sign variance and took up questions regarding the city's animal and sign ordinances.

Meeting first as an appeals board, the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday granted a variance to the city's sign ordinance to the Garden Gate flower shop, located on Main Street. The city ordinance currently prohibits signs which extend out from the front wall of businesses. The variance request was for a sign extending out from the front wall above the awning.

The sign, according to the variance request, will not extend away from the building beyond the awning.

"I think it's silly not to be able to have a sign which extends out from the building," commission member Paul Church said.

Several members suggested that the ordinance be revisited so that variance requests are not necessary if a business owner wishes to hang a sign out in front of this business.

The variance request was granted by unanimous vote of the commission.

Following discussion on animals in residential zones within the city - particularly domestic farm animals such as sheep and goats which are often raised by 4-H and FFA members to enter in the county fair but also including cattle, pigs and horses - the commission said city code already regulated raising animals in residential zones and just needed to be enforced.

Though the code does not prohibit farm animals within the city, even in residential zones, it does provide a mechanism for complaints to be filed if the animals create a health hazard or become a nuisance - a complaint in writing, followed up by an investigation and notice from the appropriate law enforcement officer, and legal action by the city attorney if the situation is not corrected within five days.

If enforcing current code does not work, the commission may revisit the matter and recommend ways to further regulate animals in residential zones.

"I would like to see kids be able to have one lamb or one goat for a limited time only and no breeding stock," said commission member David Nelson.

Nelson also suggested that the city council give the commission more direction if it wishes to tighten up the city ordinances that regulate the matter.

The commission reviewed the sign ordinance of Siloam Springs as a model which could, with some modification, be enacted in Gentry. The ordinanceincludes definitions and regulates a wide variety of signs which are commonly associated with businesses, organizations, garage sales and political campaigns.

City attorney Jay Williams suggested that it may be wise for the city to modify its existing half-page sign ordinance before some commercial sign company comes in and erects large billboard signs within city limits.

Also discussed were garageand yard-sale signs, permit fees, spotlights and beacons, temporary signs, sign sizes and sign setbacks.

Williams will do additional research and bring back a proposed sign ordinance, modeled after that of Siloam Springs, at a future commission meeting. The commission could then recommend a sign ordinance to the city council for adoption.

News, Pages 1, 2 on 09/23/2009

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