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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 19 2011

Sign code ordinance nears referral

Opponents of Fargo’s new sign code have collected enough signatures to refer the ordinance, City Auditor Steve Sprague confirmed Tuesday.

He said he will recommend on Monday that the City Commission accept the petition to refer the sign code.

However, the owner of a portable sign company says he doesn’t believe work to get the sign code set aside is done.

Jim Patterson, owner of the Sign Shop, said he believes the city will try to regulate signs through manipulation of zoning laws.

He said he and other sign company owners talked with some city officials last week, “and they haven’t responded back to us. And I don’t trust them.”

He believes the city is trying to eliminate sign clutter, “and they’re going to eliminate business people in the process.”

Patterson and other portable sign company owners circulated the petitions.

Sprague, in a memo to city commissioners, verified the “validity and sufficiency” of the needed signatures last Thursday.

He said the commission can submit the issue to voters in June 2012, or it can repeal the referred ordinance.

Hinderaker said the old sign code is being used to issue sign permits. He said he expects the city will go through the process to formally re-adopt the old sign code in coming weeks. Sprague said 1,765 signatures were originally collected. He told The Forum two weeks ago that the total was whittled to 1,720 after signatures of people not living in Fargo were disqualified. At least 1,424 signatures were needed to refer the ordinance.

Of the remaining signatures, 17 percent of the required number of signers needed to refer the ordinance were contacted by telephone, Sprague said in the memo.

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