City creates tourism council

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city will have a new Tourism Commission to oversee expenditures from room tax revenues starting next year.

To comply with a new state law, the City Council Tuesday approved the creation of a five-member group to mange the room tax.

City Administrator Brian Yerges explained that the state now requires room tax revenues to be turned over directly to a room tax commission or tourism entity.

In the past, the city had turned the room tax revenues over to the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce to use for tourism promotion, but the state law adopted in 2015 no longer allows that. “The law took away the council’s ability to have a contract with the chamber,” Yerges told the council.

The commission approved by the council will include two city residents who are local elected officials, a representative of city staff, a representative of the hotel and motel industry, and a representative of the business community. The latter could be a board member or director of the Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Plymouth Downtown Arts and Merchants, a member of the Redevelopment Authority or a member of the Plymouth Industrial Development Corp., according to the ordinance.

All members would serve one-year terms, which raised a concern for Alderman Charles Hansen.

“I don’t like the idea of five new members every year,” Hansen commented. He suggested making the city administrator a permanent member of the commission in order to assure some consistency and continuity.

Yerges pointed out that other council committees are all one-year appointments, but added that terms for the new commission could be lengthened or staggered in the future if it proves necessary.

With some changes, the council adopted a new sign ordinance to comply with a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that struck down contentrelated restrictions in municipal sign codes.

City Attorney Crystal Fieber, who drew up the new code, emphasized that, “This is … a work in progress.

“I suspect as case law develops in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, we’re probably going to have some changes over the next five years,” she explained.

Alderman John Nelson raised a concern over size restrictions on authorized temporary signs in residential and commercial districts.

Specifically, he pointed to real estate and for sale signs in both areas. The proposed ordinance limited temporary signs to six square feet per side in residential districts and 12 square feet per side in commercial districts.

Nelson, who works as a real estate agent, pointed out that the standard “home for sale” signs used by real estate firms are at least eight square feet per side. And for commercial properties, those signs can be as large as 32 square feet, he added.

“I thought that was a pretty significant change,” Nelson said of the restrictions to eight and 12 square feet in the proposed ordinance.

Yerges noted that the only comment he had received on the proposed new ordinance was in regard to that issue, requesting an increase in the size limit.

The council agreed to increase the size limits to eight square feet a side in residential districts and 32 square feet a side in commercial districts.

Alderman Jim Faller questioned another section in the ordinance banning “signs at new construction sites and remodeling, repairing or renovation projects … in residential zones or at residential buildings in all zones.”

He contended contractors should be allowed to post signs at projects they may be working on. “All the realtors have their signs all over the city,” Faller pointed out, contending that contractors and other tradespeople should be able to do the same.

Fieber said that section was carried over from the city’s previous sign ordinance and had been adopted by the council several years ago.

“That was partly because it got so out of hand with contractors on a work site putting up signs that it looked like a used car lot,” Mayor Donald Pohlman explained. “The purpose for it was it got too crazy.”

“If you give it to one business, you’ve got to give it to all,” and that created too much sign clutter, Alderman Greg Hildebrand added.

No action was taken to change that section of the code.

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