Picture a dozen politicians skating aimlessly around a frozen pond. Occasionally two collide, possibly exchanging words, sometimes cordial, other times heated. The remainder of the session consists of repetitious questions, poorly framed proposals, demands for clarification and declarations of confusion, all in a tone of general exasperation because no one seems to be listening to anyone else.
Now you have an image of Missoula’s Plat, Annexation and Zoning (PAZ) committee meeting this morning.
After several hours of discussion and public comment on electronic, reader board-style signs – mostly a repetition of previous discussions and comments — the PAZ committee finally came to a few tentative conclusions: new electronic signs will not be banned (yet); animation on electronic signs will be prohibited (no dancing turkeys for now); the hours of operation for electronic signs will not be restricted (still); and new electronic signs will not be allowed in the downtown business district.
“I have a feeling we will revisit this issue someday soon,” said PAZ chairman Bob Jaffe after the votes were taken.
Halfway through the meeting — a model of inefficiency — the committee got back to where last week’s meeting began, eliciting visible frustration from Jaffe. “We’re spending too much time on motions that have no chance of passing,” he said. “I wish we could just get this over with and get on with the ordinance.”
“We have to get to a vote,” insisted Jaffe, growing impatient after hearing an hour of public comment on whether or not electronic signs are safety hazards.
Councilman John Hendrickson objected to the push.
“We’ve heard a lot of public comment and we have to get on with it,” continued Jaffe.
Councilman Jon Wilkins joined Hendrickson’s objection.
“We’ve spent three hours on nothing,” said Jaffe.
Audible gasps came from the audience, which consisted of about two dozen pro-sign business owners who had taken valuable time out of their day to come say “nothing” to the committee.
“What I mean,” backtracked Jaffe, “is would anybody like to say something that hasn’t already been expressed?”
A few more people commented.
“Have we exhausted public comment?” asked Jaffe.
The committee will continue to work through the proposed zoning ordinance update while they wait for district judge John Larson to decide on a pending lawsuit that could further delay the review process.