A while back, an interesting thing happened at city council in Wausau. They took a vote, the person in the audience whose issue it was then asked to speak because they were very confused with what the vote meant, was the item approved or not approved. The item was the Peace Sculpture and the Mayor explained that the sculpture was approved, but the City had to put in place a system for reviewing sculptures, but once that system was made, this one was approved.
Instantly a number of people who voted for the sculpture hit their blue lights to speak. They had understood that this procedure for accepting sculptures had to be developed, and then this proposal would go through that procedure. A review of the minutes determined that to not be the case, and the Mayor’s interpretation of the motion, as amended, was correct.
While I was at the council meeting last night for a completely different issue, we had another one of those “What Did We Just Vote For” moments.
A while back, Trigs got a conditional use to put a sign on the back of the property that could be seen from the freeway. Signs are only allowed to be 30’ high, but with a conditional use, the sign could be over 30’ but not more than 50’ high. The height is actually measured from the curb on the FRONT of the property. In the case of Trigs, they wanted a 50’ sign to get it up high enough to get over the hill in the back of the property and still have freeway visibility. In reality though, the sign is actually only 38’ tall. But, the application was for a 50’ sign because the back of the property is 12’ higher than the front of the property, where the front curb is.
County Market was asking to put up a similar sign. All during the council meeting, they discussed that County Market wanted a 40’ tall sign to be at the same elevation as the Trig’s sign. City staff seemed to think that the geographical features that County Market was dealing with would actually allow for similar visibility with a 30’ tall sign, so that is what staff recommended, and that is what the Plan Commission recommended.
A representative of County Market was allowed to address the Council before the vote to explain why they wanted the sign 10’ higher.
The motion was made to approve the sign, second, and passed unanimously with no discussion. The person representing County Market wanted to know if they got their 30’ sign or their 40’ sign. The Mayor indicated they got the 30’ sign, because no one on the council offered an amendment, they went with the recommendation of Plan Commission.
Alderperson Rassmussen (spelling?) was then quick to point out that when looking at the council agenda, they did approve a sign that “exceeded 30’ in height”, so she inquired if, in fact, they can have the 40 sign.
They then called a member of staff to explain the situation. Much like Trigs, County Market must actually measure the height of the sign from the front curb. Also, much like Trigs, the back of the lot is higher than the front of the lot, 10’ higher to be exact. So, on the drawing that they submitted, the 40’ tall sign was actually considered a 50’ sign when measured from the front curb. The Plan Commissions recommendation to the council was to allow for a 40’ tall total height sign (10’ in difference from front curb, 30’ in sign itself). What they approved was what the plan commission recommended, which was a specific sign per drawings and diagrams that is, in fact, in excess of 30’ – even though the sign itself was only 30’ tall.
I was debating if I wanted to go the Council meeting. I had a meeting in Sun Prairie that ran from 3:00 to 6:00 that I needed to leave at 4:30 to be back here in time for the meeting. My item was a conditional use for a business associate that passed the Plan Commission on a unanimous vote. Most things that pass like that see very little discussion and pass at council. I am happy I made it. A question was asked for a clarification on a parking issue, and I was asked to answer that simple question, which I did. However answering that questioned opened the door to other discussion I didn’t see coming – discussion that was brought up at the public hearing, but was not a concern of this particular neighbor at that time. After a minor amendment, we did get our conditional use but I think had I not been there, there might have been a different result.
Anyway, off to court this morning at 9 AM, then off to Madison for a 12:30 hearing before the Housing Committee of the State Assembly to oppose AB 543.