Commissioners balk at proposed ordinance

Article provided by KPC Media

ALBION — It’s a good idea for your own safety to have a reflective address sign out in front of your house, the Noble County Board of Commissioners agreed, but members balked at the idea of approving a new ordinance mandating homes have one.

Noble County Planning Director Kenneth Hughes presented a draft ordinance that states homeowners in the unincorporated parts of the county need to have a reflective green address sign on their properties. Houses that are in low-speed subdivisions, such as unincorporated towns or small housing additions, could put signs up on the building’s facade instead of at the roadside.

Signs typically cost $8-$15 and can be obtained from local fire departments or are available at home improvement stores.

The signs are helpful to police, fire and ambulance personnel, allowing them to more easily locate a property in an emergency. Commissioners Gary Leatherman and Dave Abbott, Sheriff Doug Harp, 911 director Mitch Fiandt and Hughes all agreed on that.

The signs are standardized, reflective and two-sided. Although property owners may put their names and addresses on mailboxes, they’re often not visible at night or are only on one side of the road.

“They put their numbers on the side that the mail comes from, not necessarily the direction police or fire are coming from,” Fiandt said.

But the commissioners hesitated at the language in the proposal, which technically would apply to all properties that currently don’t have signs. Residences that aren’t marked potentially could face a fine of $30.

Hughes said his intent would be only to enforce the ordinance on new homes or properties where not having a sign is a public safety hazard.

Commissioners thought that level of enforcement was OK but were concerned that if the ordinance technically applied to everyone, it would leave the door open to a change in attitude or for a future planning director or building inspector to be more heavy-handed in enforcing it.

“I think it needs to be defined clearly up front whether it’s all homes or new construction,” Abbott said. “To go out and say, ‘This looks like this house is hard to find,’ and you need to tell him he needs to have an address (sign), I think that’s overstepping.”

Although property owners probably should put a sign out for their own good, Leatherman stopped short of wanting to require it.

“I don’t want to see a public backlash because we’re requiring them to go out and spend $8-$15 to get a sign, because they think we’re going to be going down the road writing tickets,” Leatherman said.

Commissioners asked Hughes to rewrite the ordinance to define who would be required to put out a sign. They also asked Hughes and Fiandt to research what other nearby counties do.