The Washington City Council is moving forward with a public hearing even though the applicant asked the city to table his request to annex property along Highway 100 where a controversial sign is located.
The council voted, 7 to 1, to hold the hearing Monday, Feb. 7, on Jeff Wilson's request to annex a 1.23-acre parcel at Highway 100 and South Point Road.
The hearing originally was scheduled Monday, Dec. 20, but Wilson's attorney submitted a letter earlier that day asking that the hearing be tabled. The council approved his request at that time.
The city's planning and zoning commission recommended that the council deny the request until the property owner resolved issues with the county over the digital message billboard on the property, which was erected without first obtaining a county permit and does not comply with the county's setback requirements.
The county had filed criminal misdemeanor charges against Wilson for the alleged code violations, but those charges were dismissed earlier in December on the condition that Wilson have the property annexed into the Washington corporate limits.
The county's code requires a 40-foot setback. The city's code is more stringent, requiring that billboards be set back 90 feet from a property line and they can't be closer than 500 feet from a residential district.
But if the property is annexed, the sign could remain as a non-conforming use, officials said.
Connie Groff, council member, made the motion to take the issue "off the table" and hold the public hearing. She said the issue needs to be resolved, otherwise the applicant can continue to operate the sign "illegally."
Councilman Tim Brinker, the only member to vote against the motion, said it should be up to the developer when to submit the issue for a hearing.
"To say he is operating illegally, I question that," Brinker said. "That hasn't been proven in court."
He said he understands that the applicant plans to raise issues involving other billboards that the council "may have overlooked."
It's the second time Wilson has requested annexation of the parcel. In 2009, the plan board recommended annexing the property, but the council voted to table any action until the applicant resolved the issues with the county over the code violations.
Wilson had been charged with four separate misdemeanor counts for alleged code violations that occurred June 1, June 3 and Aug. 12, 2009. Technically, he could be charged with a separate count for each day a violation is not corrected.
After the December plan board meeting, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks told The Missourian that he agreed to dismiss the code violation charges against Wilson if the city approved annexation of the property.
Parks said if the property is not annexed, he intends to refile charges in the case.