Carmel group to re-examine sign ordinance rules

By Mark Ambrogi

A U.S. Supreme Court decision has Carmel and other communities re-evaluating their sign ordinances.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court struck down a town sign ordinance by Gilbert, Ariz., after a challenge by a small church. The ordinance restricted the sign to six square feet and said it could only be displayed for up to 12 hours before services were held. However, political signs were permitted anytime before the election and could measure up to 32 square feet.

At the request of the City of Carmel approximately five years ago, Mo Merhoff said the Carmel Chamber of Commerce put together a sign ordinance team that worked with the department of community services on a project to redo the Carmel sign ordinance totally.

“We got some things we wanted, and we lost on some things we wanted, and I think the city would say the same,” Merhoff said.

Merhoff is now president of OneZone, after the Carmel and Fishers Chambers of Commerce merged last year.

She said she got a call about one month ago from Mike Hollibaugh from Carmel’s Dept. of Community Services asking if they would be interested in reconvening the group after the Supreme Court decision.

Three of the four members of the sign committee, including Merhoff, will return. One member of the original group no longer owns a business in Carmel.

The returning members are David Fineberg, of The Fineberg Group, and Barbara Eden, from Barbara Eden Freelance Design. The new member is Michael Kile, owner of AlphaGraphics, who has knowledge of the sign business.

“We are waiting for an initial meeting with the city to decide where we go from here,” Merhoff said. There looks like there will need to be some areas we need to review. It goes without saying that communities throughout the country are doing this. It’s certainly not specific to Carmel or to Indiana. It’s everybody that is saying ‘OK, what do we need to do?’”

Merhoff said the Supreme Court decision was a surprise to many. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the International Municipal Lawyers were among the groups supporting Gilbert.

“A lot of people involved in city planning and developers weren’t the winners here for whatever reason,” Merhoff said. “We need to figure out how, why and what this could mean for us, if anything.”

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