The discussion at Marlinton Town Council’s meeting Monday evening once again turned to the legality of signs placed on Main Street by the Men’s Bible Study Group.
The signs, which were originally installed on the lot for the Christmas season, were larger than what the town’s sign ordinance allows – which is 10’ x 10’ or smaller.
The group applied for a variance to allow the signs to remain, but the variance was voted down at the council meeting in April. The group requested to be on the May meeting agenda, but no one appeared at that meeting to discuss the issue so the discussion seemed to be over.
Until Monday evening.
Although the sign issue was not on the agenda, group spokesman J.L. Clifton addressed council during the public comment portion of the agenda.
Clifton said he wanted to present a compromise for the council to consider. He explained that the larger banners were replaced with 12’ x 8’ banners, which were now in compliance with the ordinance and asked council to consider allowing the group to use the larger banners twice a year.
“We come into compliance with the banners and then twice a year – two seasons a year – we can use those for Christmas and Easter, for a set amount of time,” Clifton said. “If it’s two weeks – whatever you all think the season is – allow us to use those because we have them.”
The signs were donated to the group and Clifton said all the group wants to do is spread the message of the signs, which are religious in nature, and include the Ten Commandments.
Mayor Sam Felton said the variance was already voted on and the issue was closed, but Clifton said he was asking for a second variance for consideration.
Clifton reiterated that the new signs put in place last Sunday are in compliance and he is asking for permission to use the larger signs twice a year.
“It’s a different variance,” he said. “I’m not asking for a 365 day variance. I’m asking for two seasons, as short as you all want it. You want them up for ten days, we’ll put them up for ten days and take them down. I think that’s a little unrealistic, but we’re at your will and mercy right now.
“I received a letter saying that we’ve ignored this,” he added. “We’re not ignoring this.”
“You have been, J.L.,” Felton interjected, “because even the new signs went up without coming in first and getting a permit, so they’re still out there unpermitted.”
Councilmember and town Code Enforcer Scott Gibb added that the new signs are actually not in compliance with the town ordinance.
“A copy of the ordinance says 10×10 and those are 12×8,” he said. “You’re going by square footage. I’m going by the ordinance.”
Clifton explained that the application for a permit says the signs must be less than 100 square feet, which the 12×8 signs are, but the ordinance says all signs must be 10×10 or less which would indicate that the signs are not following the ordinance.
After more discussion concerning the size of the signs and issue of compliance, councilmember Gail Hyer said she felt it would be best if the council organized a sign ordinance committee to evaluate the ordinance and make sure that it is clear as to what size signs are permitted in town limits.
Council agreed and Hyer said she will have a committee organized by the next council meeting, which is in July.
Because the variance and compromise Clifton was requesting were not on the agenda, council was unable to vote on it. Clifton requested to be placed on the agenda for the July meeting.
In other business, council approved:
• Region IV Resolution #6 – Emergency Repairs Project and Region IV Resolution #10 – Smoke Testing Project.
• Region IV legal services selection for the water system improvements project.
• Supporting the placement of a Pocahontas County Veterans Memorial Marker in the Gazebo Park, with a 5-1 vote.
• Placement of a light at Andy Biggs’ property on Fourth Avenue.
• To give eligible town employees a five percent pay raise, effective July 1.
Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month, excluding holidays, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building auditorium. The public is welcome to attend in person or virtually through Zoom.