Fireworks in Texas Township; sign law remains a hot issue
TEXAS TOWNSHIP, PA - The former vice-chair of the Texas Township Planning Commission unloaded a barrage of criticism at the supervisors on November 5. John Bartron accused the supervisors of “stabbing the planning commission in the back” and “hanging it out to dry like a piñata.”
His complaint centered on the handling of a proposed sign law that the planning commission had crafted, which was rejected by the supervisors at a meeting on October 15. That rejection prompted the four-member board to resign immediately. At the November 5 meeting, Bartron accused the supervisors of attending a “secret meeting” with businessman Rusty Palmer about the ordinance, which Palmer objected to.
That accusation brought a strong response from chairman Don Doney who said, “There was no secret meeting between Rusty Palmer and the supervisors; we went down one at a time to talk with him. I don’t know what you want, John, you’re accusing us of doing nasty things, and I don’t think we’ve done anything that was not prudent.”
Palmer and other business people had complained in the October meeting that the sign ordinance was too long and complex.
Planning consultant Tom Shepstone said, at the time, that he had come up with a slimmed-down version of the ordinance, and that was given to the supervisors for review.
At the November meeting, supervisor Richard Southerton also responded to Bartron’s accusation regarding a secret meeting. He said, “Last month I said, ‘We have to be fair to Rusty Palmer, too.’ Nothing has been decided. We got a copy of the proposed ordinance. There were no secret meetings. I think that it’s the responsibility of the supervisors to meet with people who have concerns.”
Palmer told The River Reporter that his primary concern with the ordinance as proposed by the planning commission was that it would limit signage for his recreational vehicle business on Route 652 to 96 square feet, which he said was not enough square footage to advertise his business. He noted that another nearby business has 319 feet of existing signage.
Bartron had said the committee was trying to limit visual clutter. Bartron has been painting the situation as one of favoritism for a few business owners over the rest of the community and the planning commission. At the October meeting he read from a letter, “We, as the Texas Township Planning Commission, have done our best with the Article Eight Texas Township Zoning Ordinance to be impartial as possible, so as not to give even the appearance of favoritism of businesses over residents and vice versa. You are now asking us to compromise our principles and rewrite the ordinance to accommodate a favorite few. Therefore, we tender our resignations effective immediately.”
Doney said the supervisors now have the option of having the Wayne County Planning Department handle township planning matters, or they could form a planning panel made up of the three supervisors, or they could appoint new members to the planning commission. He added that if they decide to do away with the commission, it would have to be done through an ordinance, which would require a public hearing.