FOREST PARK — After a nearly two-hour delay in getting a 5 p.m. called meeting started Tuesday, city council members voted unanimously to put a moratorium on the placement of certain signs in Forest Park.
Councilman Tommy Smith was an hour and 46 minutes late getting to the meeting because of work, he said.
“I left Jasper at 5:15,” Smith said as he rushed into council chambers still wearing his work clothes.
Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord and councilwomen Maudie McCord and Latresa Akins applauded his arrival. They couldn’t take any action without Smith’s presence because Lord was filling in for absent Mayor David Lockhart and the council needed three voting members.
Some residents weren’t as good-natured about the delay and several had to leave before the meeting started, including Donna Barkley and her husband.
“We can’t wait any more,” she said. “He’s going fishing and we’ve got to go.”
Other residents grumbled about the delay, questioning why the council didn’t just reschedule. There is a regular meeting set for Monday at 6 p.m.
Once Smith arrived, the council voted to go into secret session to discuss what they identified as pending or threatened legal matters. After nine minutes, members returned and Lord said there was no action to take from the closed-door session.
However, council members did take action on a moratorium on the placement of certain signs within the city. City attorney Steve Fincher, attending his first council meeting in several meeting cycles, said there are weaknesses in the city’s sign ordinance that need to be addressed.
Fincher said he and Planning, Building and Zoning Director Al Wiggins reviewed the ordinance.
“Al Wiggins and I took a look at the ordinance and there are weaknesses that need to be shored up,” he said, “and shored up before anyone could take advantage of it.”
Fincher recommended the council put a moratorium on signs while changes are made to the ordinance.
Wiggins said he couldn’t discuss the details about the moratorium because of possible legal action but said the moratorium targets only signs that are 200-square feet or greater.
The moratorium will remain in place until the ordinance is amended or Oct. 8, whichever comes first, according to the resolution. The resolution states “substantial disorder, detriment and irreparable harm would result to the citizens, businesses and City of Forest Park if the current sign ordinance were to be utilized by property owners prior to a more thorough review.”
The resolution also allows for exemptions.
“During this term of this moratorium, any person may file an application for exemption from this moratorium related to signs with the Mayor and Council,” states the resolution. “The Mayor and Council may grant such exemption where the proposed establishments are deemed to be in conformity with the proposed ordinances to be considered during the term of this moratorium.”
For signs 201 to 300 square feet, the city collects a $200 permit fee. There is a $300 fee for signs 301 to 500 square feet and a $500 fee for signs 501 to 700 square feet.
Eleven minutes after Smith arrived, the meeting ended.