Sign standards may be one of the first topics decided in regard to the Highway 371 commercial development moratorium.
The topic gained prominence again Tuesday at the regular Crow Wing County Board meeting. It is not the first time a business owner said the lack of a sign was adversely affecting business. New signs and expansions for them fell under the same guidelines as new development when the moratorium was enacted along the highway corridor.
Tuesday, commissioners agreed to put the sign discussion on a priority list with the moratorium task force meeting later this week.
Bill Atkinson, store manager of Olympic Boat Center on Highway 371 North, said he purchased a sign, invested about $20,000 and nearly had a permit in hand before the moratorium was enacted.
Atkinson contends he did not get a permit because a planning and zoning employee said the permit was not needed. No one from planning and zoning was on hand to speak for the department. Sign designs need to be ready before permits are granted. The moratorium then changed the playing field.
Commissioner Jim Hill said he did not view the request as an exception to the moratorium, but as an administrative issue in planning and zoning. Commissioners Gil Dewes and Ed Larsen agreed.
Assistant County Attorney John Hancock said even if a verbal or written agreement had existed, the moratorium cuts off all decisions. Commissioners are not required to give notice of such a moratorium vote. And Hancock pointed out that planning and zoning did not know a moratorium was going into effect at the time.
But even with a consensus from the board to put the issue to the task force's discussion, Atkinson said he has already been waiting for months.
"Right now you are putting me in a very precarious situation as a business owner in this county," Atkinson said. "I have people complaining to me daily that they can't find our store."
The Olympic Boat Center is located in the former Bud Grant's Boat Buying Club site.
In response to Atkinson's comments, Chairman Terry Sluss said the board had a larger vision that members needed to keep in place. The moratorium task force meets at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in Meeting Room One in the Service Building.
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