The American Legion Devereaux Post 141 is seeking approval from Howell Township for a billboard on their property; however a number of issues have come up throughout the process that Legion members and supporters are questioning.

About 40 community members attended the township Planning Commission’s Tuesday meeting to voice support for the proposed electronic billboard on the Legion’s site at M-59 and Grand River. The Legion says the billboard would provide a source of revenue that the nonprofit needs to stay afloat down the road.

The Legion first applied in January of 2017, but planning commissioners say they didn’t hear about it until this past March. That was right around the time that the Board of Trustees adopted a moratorium for 120 days, which temporarily halted any sign or billboard approvals. Township officials say the intent was to freeze any approvals until they had amended their “outdated” sign ordinance. A public hearing regarding some proposed amendments was held at the commission’s Tuesday meeting, at which time a number of attendees shared concerns and asked questions about various issues surrounding the application process and new ordinance.

If the suggested changes to the ordinance were adopted, the Legion’s billboard as currently proposed would not be permitted. Some have accused township officials of putting a moratorium in place before the Legion’s application could complete the process in an attempt to prevent the billboard. Legion members say their site plans for the sign should be held to the original ordinance’s standards, instead of the new regulations being retroactively applied to the plans that were submitted prior to their adoption. Several attendees said if held to the new standards, the township should consider making an exception because the legion is a nonprofit veterans’ organization.

Legion members and supporters also want to know why the application process took so long and why the Planning Commission hadn’t heard about it until March of 2018, when the moratorium was already in place. Township officials say they need to meet with legal counsel to get further clarification before they can answer any of those questions.

Officials can’t take action on the Legion’s application until the moratorium lifts in approximately two weeks. The township’s board will meet before then on July 9th and the Planning Commission will next meet July 24th. (DK)