County planners OK resolutions for historic monuments, billboards in FAR zones
The Dyer County Regional Planning Commission passed resolutions Thursday allowing historic monuments and advertising signs in forestry, agriculture and recreation zones.
The resolutions also must be approved by the Dyer County Commission before becoming part of the county's zoning regulations.
The resolutions are perceived as potential solutions to two controversial topics: a giant flagpole near Trimble and an alleged case of spot zoning for a Highway 78 billboard.
Under the proposed amendments, anyone who wants to erect a monument or sign must seek special permits from the county's Board of Zoning Appeals.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans erected an 80-foot-tall flagpole near Pierce Cemetery in a forestry, agriculture and recreation (FAR) zone. A 20-by-30-foot Confederate flag now flies high on a hill overlooking Interstate 155.
Last month, Bill Foster of Union City, commander of the 10-county Sons of Confederate Veterans division that established the flagpole, said it is part of a complex "for history, heritage and honor." The SCV plans to place Confederate "mega-flags" along routes across the southern United States.
After the flagpole was erected, a complaint was filed with the Dyer County Board of Zoning Appeals. Historic monuments, such as this, are not permitted in FAR zones. The board declined Aug. 12 to approve a variance for the flagpole, but board members said the SCV could ask the county to amend its zoning regulations.
On Thursday, Trimble Mayor Jim Stark urged county planners not to adopt the resolution. He worried aloud that allowing monuments in FAR zones potentially opens a can of worms. The county could be asked to authorize memorials to "goodness knows what. You guys will have to make decisions on all kinds of things."
As for the flagpole in Trimble, Stark said it wasn't truly a memorial. "Their agenda," he said, speaking of the SCV, "is a political agenda. The South is a country within a country." This Confederate flag and many more on major roads throughout the South send messages warning people they have entered different territory.
A Confederate flag may not be the proper memorial in this case. Stark said a soldier stationed at Shaw Air Force Base stopped at the flag memorial Monday and then proceeded to Trimble City Hall. He said he had no trouble with the Confederate flag, but he questioned why a Confederate flag was used at a monument for those who fought in all the wars, including the War of 1812, both world wars, Korea, Vietnam and other more recent conflicts.
Stark said the monument is under a foreign flag - and now so is the cemetery, the final resting place not only for Confederate soldiers but also for slaves.
The SCV was not represented during Thursday's regular monthly meeting.
Danny Willis, a county planner, questioned whether the commission could censor free speech. "If burning a flag is freedom of speech, isn't flying a flag freedom of speech?" he asked.
Daniel Cobb, the county's building official, said the county can't tell anyone what to put on a flagpole. The real problem, he said, is that an 80-foot-tall flagpole isn't a permitted use in the FAR zone.
County Attorney Mike Gauldin said the question is whether historic monuments should be allowed in FAR zones.
Charles Maxey, a county planning commission member, asked whether the proposed resolution would result in a multitude of requests for monuments. He said he doubted it.
Mickey McClure, a planning commission member, said he believed monuments should be in a commercial zone, like the monuments on the courthouse lawn. He made a motion rejecting the proposed resolution, but his motion failed to get a second.
Stating that she believed this was a decision for the county commission to make, planning commission member Barbara Johnson made a motion to approve the resolution. Larry Maupin seconded the motion. It passed with Johnson, Maupin, Jimmy Putman, Danny Willis and Roy Barker voting for it. McClure and Maxey voted against it.
The resolution requires that historic and monument sites be:
* At least 500 feet away from existing residential uses.
* Have adequate access to a public road with adequate parking.
* Reasonably open to the general public.
* Compliant with height, lot coverage and yard requirements for the district.
The alleged case of spot zoning happened on Aug. 14 when the planning commission rezoned a 0.2-acre parcel of land from FAR to Commercial. Billboards are allowed in Commercial zones but not in FAR. The landowner, David Adcock, wanted to place a 10-by-20-foot billboard on his land to advertise his motor sports business.
Although the planning commission granted his request, Adcock later withdrew his request and asked the county to consider altering the zoning regulations.
With little discussion, the planning commission adopted the resolution with McClure abstaining.
The resolution requires that signs, billboards and other advertising structures be:
* Forbidden on road rights-of-way.
* No larger than 382 square feet in size.
* At least 1,000 feet apart on the same side of the street or 500 feet from another sign on the opposite side of the street.
* At least 1,000 feet from existing residential uses.
* In compliance with height restrictions for the zoning district.
* Restricted to arterial roads, a designation for some of the county's most heavily trafficked roads.
In other business, the county planners approved a resolution allowing water tanks in FAR zones and authorizing a minor subdivision.
Like the previous resolutions, the water tank proposal must be approved by the county commission before it will be added to the zoning regulations. Anyone planning to erect a water tank in an FAR zone must first obtain a special permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals.
The resolution establishes minimum distances between water tanks and property lines, utilities and residences.
The minor subdivision would divide a parcel on Lennie Clark Road into two lots.