Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 19, 2013

Public Eye - May 19, 2013

— The billboard in the field near the big old highway

Without much fanfare, the city of Kokomo has picked a battle with the area’s largest billboard owners, South Bend-based Burkhart Outdoor Advertising.

The Kokomo Common Council passed an amendment to the city’s sign ordinance Monday which Burkhart opposed, requiring any future billboards to go through a new approval process.

Instead of simply putting up billboards, companies will now have to receive a variance from the Kokomo Board of Zoning Appeals. And with Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight’s administration pushing for a reduction in the number and size of the billboards in town, it’s by no means certain Burkhart or anyone else will be allowed to put new signs up.

A Burkhart representative asked for a continuance of Monday’s vote, but was ignored, as was an amendment proposal Burkhart officials authored.

Dave Herman, Lafayette, said the new ordinance will “lock in all signage in its current location, and will provide no opportunity for companies to invest in upgraded [sign] technology.”

Behind the scenes, city officials have been taking a hard line with Burkhart. If the company wants new local locations for billboards (along the new U.S. 31 perhaps?), they will have to remove more than one existing billboard in return.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise for anyone who watched the city administration take on temporary outdoor signs last year.

County undecided on pedestrian bridge funding

The city of Kokomo is moving forward with plans to construct a pedestrian bridge over Wildcat Creek in the vicinity of Main Street, but will probably not receive county funding assistance.

Tyler Moore, president of the Howard County Commissioners, said a contribution of $200,000 from the county was mentioned when there was discussions with the city on the Darrough Chapel sanitary sewer project and when Kokomo officials informed the county it wanted a new dispatch center funding agreement.

“The request is still on the table,” he said. “We really have not discussed it.”

Moore said a concern is the increased potential cost to the county if a dispatch center agreement can’t be reached and the upcoming county budget discussions.

“The money would have to come from the [Economic Development Income Tax],” he said. “We have not discussed amending the Capital Improvement Plan.”

Moore said the $200,000 would not qualify for funding from the Cumulative Bridge Fund. He said the opinion is the bridge fund is for motorized vehicles and not bicycles or pedestrians.

This old house

Former Kokomo Tribune publisher Kent Blacklidge set us straight this week on the West Sycamore Street mansion at the center of a rezoning controversy.

According to Blacklidge, the house was built originally by John Arthur Kautz, whose family owned the Kokomo Tribune from 1897 until 1981. Kautz died in 1938. The Bolinger family owned the historic home up until last year, when it was sold to the Chrystal Ziliotto Revocable Trust. The attorney acting as sole trustee, Robert Nice, said he wants to turn the home into a law office, but he’ll have to wait six months to bring his rezoning petition back to the city council, after being shot down Monday. His other option would be to use the home as his law office without a rezoning, which would mean he couldn’t have a sign out front. Or he could seek judicial review of the council’s decision, by filing a lawsuit.

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