|Signs are pointing to an amended ordinance for individuals looking to advertise their home based business in Galesburg.
At April 23rd's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, allowing Galesburg resident Patrick Bailey to put a sign on his property came under consideration.
Bailey is reportedly unemployed, but given Knox County's 9.2 percent unemployment rate, he decided last summer to start a car-washing business out of the home he currently occupies.
He says washing cars is the only way he can currently provide for his family.
"I'm not bothering anybody," says Bailey. "It's hard for me and, as far as the sign, you know the sign is not permanent. When I'm washing cars, the sign is out in the yard, if I'm not washing cars, the sign is in the garage. I keep my yard clean, constantly cut the grass, no loud music. You've got me."
In 1992, the Galesburg City Council upgraded regulations for home occupations - which include any signage on residential property.
Current ordinance allows signs of one square foot or less to be put on the side of residential buildings, or on light poles at least 10 feet from the front property line.
Bailey initially, and accidentally, placed the sign on City property, but reportedly complied with a request to move the sign to the home's private property on August 28th, 2012.
Galesburg Community Development Director Roy Parkin says the City is required to enforce what's in the code.
"The code says a one square foot area, mounted to the wall and all that," says Parkin. "The intent at the time, because I was the one that drafted the language in '92, the intent was that it was the only sign that a home occupation could have. If times have changed and the economy has changed to where we want to be more flexible, then yeah we need to change the ordinance."
Before an amendment to the ordinance could be brought forward, a summons was given to Bailey on December 12th, 2012.
In the case, Judge Scott Shiplett found Bailey not guilty on February 21st, 2013 - saying that his sign is not covered under the home occupation section of the development ordinance, but is covered by the temporary section.
Bailey waived his right to a trial by jury in the case.
"When I did first put my sign on the yard, I called City Hall and asked them if it was okay. They said it was okay," says Bailey. "I told them what I was doing: washing cars. It's okay."
Amending the development ordinance came under the Planning and Zoning Commission's review during April 24th's meeting.
Temporary sign regulations were adopted as part of the development ordinance by the City Council in 2010 and were reportedly intended, although without mention in current ordinance, for commercial areas.
Parkin says the intent was not to usurp the existing home occupation ordinance.
"If the judge is saying 'well I kind of look at that as a temporary sign' and again, I don't agree totally that temporary signs, the intent was to allow it in residential," says Parkin. "What I'm saying then is that we need to clarify it instead of having this confusion."
If passed by the Planning and Zoning commission, and subsequently by the City Council, the amendment would add an exclusion disallowing signs promoting home occupation unless it complies with all sign requirements.
Requirements include not illuminating the sign and ensuring the material used to build the sign is sturdy and anchored to the ground which would reasonably prevent a health or safety hazard from occurring.
It would also repeal all ordinances that are considered in conflict with the amendment. Bailey found sympathy from the Planning and Zoning Commission with Chairman John Spittell saying he supports Bailey's entrepreneurialism.
"Lord knows this is a difficult economy and we could use more entrepreneurial activity like exactly what [Bailey's] doing," says Spittell. "On the other hand, there also is the issue of: well just what is a sign? All of a sudden we go from one sign to a hundred signs and then we have everybody else's interpretation of it, so we need some sort of a standard here."
Commission members said that, considering the court's ruling on the matter, Bailey should be allowed to continue placing his sign on the property on a temporary basis.
Considering the amendment and possible alternatives will take some time. Several commission members suggested that a one square foot sign is too small.
Bailey agreed with the assessment, saying it's hard enough as it is to see it.
"The sign requirement the City is saying, one by one foot, you can't even see the sign," says Bailey. "They say it needs to be attached to the garage. Okay so if anybody has driven past Losey [Street] the business I'm trying to do, if you look up, you're not even going to see my sign."
The City will request comparable information from other cities in Illinois such as Bloomington, Decatur, and Carbondale regarding how they handle the issue of home occupation and temporary signs.
If the amendment is passed, an amortization period would commence where Bailey would need to be in compliance with the development ordinance.
According to Parkin, if Bailey fails to cooperate, he could find himself back in court on an ordinance violation.
Parkin says that, until an amendment is passed, the City will be unable to enforce the the home occupation sign ordinances.