A revised sign ordinance for Howell Township has received preliminary approval and now moves toward final review in hopes of beating the expiration date for a moratorium on new signs.

The township’s Planning Commission met Tuesday and discussed the latest draft of the revised ordinance, which was modified to address issues like electronic billboards and their permitted location. One of the main goals in updating the ordinance was to create buffers and distance spacing between billboards in order to limit the number of signs in the area. Planning Commission Chairman Andrew Sloan believes that objective is in accordance with the wishes of the majority of township residents, citing feedback the township received from residents when working on the municipality's master plan two years ago.

After discussing the draft, Commissioner Mark Freude suggested tabling a vote on recommendation to approve the ordinance as two members of the planning commission were missing. However the ordinance must receive approval by the Board of Trustees before it can become official and if tabled, the draft likely would not make it to the board before a moratorium on new sign approvals expired.

Township officials first enacted a moratorium in March while they reworked the ordinance, but it expired in July, prompting officials to establish a second one while discussions surrounding the suggested revisions continued. The second moratorium will expire mid-November. As a result, the Planning Commission decided it would be best to act now, and voted to recommend approval of the ordinance to the Board of Trustees.

While the ordinance awaits board review and possible approval, an application for an electronic billboard from the American Legion Devereaux Post 141 remains tabled. The Legion had applied for the sign prior to the moratorium, but their application did not make it to the review process before the moratorium was enacted. Many Legion members felt their application should be considered under the original ordinance instead of the revised version.

At a meeting in June, Legion members questioned why it took 14 months for their site plan to make it to the Planning Commission and why commissioners didn’t know about it until the Board of Trustees had already adopted the freeze on sign approval. Sloan says he does not know how the township will proceed if the Legion chooses to pursue it, but did mention at the meeting that he does not agree with the way the township handled the Legion’s application. (DK)