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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 25 2009

Fargo won’t appeal LED sign decision

Fargo city commissioners decided Monday not to appeal a district court decision forcing the city to allow a local businessman to build a four-sided electronic messaging sign on the edge of a residential neighborhood.

On two 4-0 vote, commissioners also:

E Voided a May 18 vote to declare a moratorium on issuing permits for electronic messaging center signs near residential neighborhoods.

E Voted for an ordinance to declare a moratorium on EMC signs. The moratorium will last until Feb. 18 and won’t allow EMC signs within 150 feet of residentially zoned areas.

The district court felt a moratorium ordinance was needed to modify the city’s current sign permit process, said City Attorney Erik Johnson.

Johnson said the ruling forcing the city to give Steven Stremick a permit to build his electronic sign at 13th Avenue South and University Drive would be tough to overturn.

It’s “probably not the best case to take up to the (state) Supreme Court,” Johnson said.

He said protests about Stremick’s plans for the sign on the edge of the Hawthorne neighborhood came late and that Stremick “had kind of done what he needed to do” to obtain a permit.

In fact, he was on the verge of getting a permit to put up his sign – which can have faces 8 feet wide and 8½ feet tall – when the commission voted May 18 to put a moratorium on such signs within 150 feet of residential areas.

The moratorium was eventually extended to six months.

Senior Planner Jim Hinderaker said a committee working to revamp the city’s sign code to take into account electronic signs should be finished with its work by Feb. 18.

Johnson cautioned commissioners that some people who want sign permits for electronic messaging signs may be able to get them between now and the time the ordinance reinstating the moratorium on permits becomes law.

However, Commissioner Brad Wimmer said other businessmen have backed off plans for electronic signs, opting for more traditional signs instead.

Wimmer said he still believes Stremick’s sign will be an “eyesore.”

The planned sign “is much, much too big for the property,” Wimmer said.

Commissioner Tim Mahoney was not present at the meeting.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583