SOUTH BEND - The South Bend City Council meeting was scheduled with a light agenda but was amended by Mayor Pro Tem Robert Hall, serving in the absence of Mayor Julie Struck.
A few members were absent from the regular scheduled meeting due to family or other business priorities during this time of school graduations, vacations and other civic matters, but a quorum was present.
Prior to the acceptance of the previous council meeting minutes and the consent agenda spending just shy of $171,000 of the annual budget, for payroll and vendor checks, Mayor Pro Tem Hall accepted a motion to add a 6 sub A to the agenda to have a short discussion on the upcoming sign ordinance that is working its way through the South Bend Planning Commission.
With no correspondence noted from the city clerk, the council moved to appoint two new members to the South Bend Planning Commission. Raymond residents Rebecca Chaffee of the Port and Scot Pearson of Flannery Publications had previously sought volunteer appointments with Mayor Struck and were approved by the city council. It was noted that residency in the city of South Bend was not a requirement to serve on the South Bend Planning Commission and the sitting council approved the pair by unanimous vote.
The council then moved on to item 6, Ordinance #1497, the second reading of annexation of the property known as Pacific Sunset.
City Supervisor Dennis Houk advised the council that there are still sewer and septic issues with the property that have not been resolved at this time. The council approved the motion to move 1497 into its third reading.
The meeting moved on to the added agenda item, 6A, were Mayor Pro Tem Hall asked the council for a moratorium on enforcing the current signs restrictions until the new one was approved.
A discussion about the current state of affairs around the latest South Bend sign controversy was had among council members before any motion hit the table. It was brought to light that the city had already placed cease and desist orders to area businesses who are flying advertising signs in any fashion, giving them 45 days to comply, with an expiration date of June 30.
Council member Hall expressed that his suggestion was to not have any additional enforcement until the city had an opportunity to see what came out of the Planning Commission and a new plan approved by the council.
Council member Lisa Olsen argued that with the current actions already in place that to take additional action without the presence of Mayor Struck, who the council supported in her initial action for the cease and desist orders, would be akin to pulling the rug from under her, and cautioned the council that no further action should be taken at this time.
With no motion presented, Mayor Pro Tem Hall moved the meeting along to the Public Comment period.
Resident Karen Tully spoke up to address the council about the marijuana flying man advertisement. Tully noted that a group of concerned residents had issue with the advertisement and that to them it was against the law as it seems to attract children. She mentioned that in discussion with several parents in the community that they have concerns that the sign is being noticed by the youth of the community raising questions and who want to stop and see the sign. She apologized for missing any previous meetings, as she was unaware of the topic being under advisement by the city council currently.
"They (the parents) do not like it, as it seems to be advertising to kids. They drive past it and there kids are commenting on the sign, about how cool it is...it is attractive to kids," said Tully.
She also brought out a "Frequently Asked Questions" posting from the Washington Liquor Control Board (WLCB), describing the rules for signage for recreational marijuana retail outlets, which she and her group believe the sign is in violation of.
And she was curious to know who is enforcing the rules around the new industry. Tully also noted that she had tried to contact the WLCB but was not getting any specific answers on the topic.
The discussion went back and forth between council members and came to the point that it is a hot button topic right now and that if anyone from the community had concerns now is the time to get involved and attend the next South Bend Planning Commission meeting, which is scheduled for this Wednesday, June 10 at 5:30 pm at the South Bend Council Chambers.
Mayor Pro Tem Hall moved the meeting on to Department Head Reports of which none were given. In a relayed Mayors Report read by Mayor Pro Tem Hall, it was noted that a posting on social media of the flying man advertising marijuana had over 300,000 hits, and is bringing attention to the area.; giving notoriety good or bad.
In closing comments from the council bench, council member Olsen commented that she would like to have had South Bend residents on the Planning Commission. Mayor Pro Tem Hall did relate that Mayor Struck had contacted upwards to 50 people about the open positions, but had no takers.
Council member Bunny Williams spoke on the sign issues that was brought up during the public comment period and noted that it is such a gray area and that the citizens need to understand that this issue needs to be handled legally, if the city puts into motion an illegal ordinance, it may possibly come back on the city.
"That is why we are trying to look at his from every angle," said Williams.
Council member Pat Neve commented saying, "The people of Washington passed the legalization of marijuana and advertising is part of the business and is not illegal."
The meeting adjourned at 5:50 pm.
The next regular South Bend City Council meeting is scheduled for June 22 at 5:30 pm.