At the outset an Ole Seagull would point out that he is a personal friend of Steve Monroe, the owner of Gas Buster Tours. Too he would admit to being disappointed and angry. The question he must answer before writing this column however is, “Would he have written it even if the city had granted the sign permit and he believed the process was still flawed?” The answer is “Yes.” It is not about Monroe’s sign; it is about the process and what happens to the next business or person who finds themselves in a similar situation.
Monroe, initially erected a directional sign authorized under subsection 70-10(10) of the Branson Municipal Code (BMC) entitled, “Private traffic entrance and directional signs.” The BMC reads, “Signs directing traffic movement onto premises or within premises, not exceeding six square feet in area for each sign, shall be allowed. Advertising logos are allowed, but are limited to no more than 25 percent of the total sign area of each sign. One entrance sign and one exit sign shall be allowed for each public street entrance. Each sign shall be a maximum of three feet in height to the top of the sign, and each sign shall be a maximum of three feet in width. Horizontal signs on and flush with paved areas are exempt from these standards.”
If read exactly the way it is written, should it take a highly paid bureaucrat or legal Solomon to determine what the purpose of the sign is and what a person or business has to do to be in compliance with its provisions? To an Ole Seagull, if a law prescribes something a business or person has to do, that law should be straight forward enough so that most people with a fifth grade reading comprehension level could read it and know what they had to do.
Having misread the scope of the exception provided in 70-10(10), Monroe put a directional sign up directing traffic into the parking lot for his primary business operation “Casino Day Trips,” which he designed, had built and believed was in accordance with 70-10(10). There was an initial problem with the fact that the scope of the exception did not cover “permitting” and the city’s Planning & Development Department enforcement folks were on him in a flash and removed the sign because he had no permit.
This is where the Ole Seagull got involved because to him it appeared that the odds were being stacked against Monroe in terms of arbitrary and selective enforcement. An Ole Seagull wondered how much of a gamble it would be to bet that similar directional signs, prominently displayed on Branson Landing Boulevard, directing traffic into the parking lot of Bass Pro’s Tracker Boat “Service Department” didn’t have a permit. Sure enough, shortly after it was alluded to in his July 26 column, the signs came down, Bass Pro applied for a permit on July 30 and it was granted within about 24 hours.
An Ole Seagull would bet, that there is no better illustration of the arbitrariness, selectivity, and the “we write the law so it means what we say it does regardless of the way it reads mentality” used by the city of Branson’s Planning & Development Department than the way the “Tracker Boat” sign was handled. From beginning to end, it testifies as to what appears to be the double standard that department uses in enforcing its regulations. However, before entering into that discussion maybe the city would be kind enough to answer a few questions.
What is the specific name appearing on the application for the permit for the “Tracker Boats Service Department” sign?” Has a city business license been issued to “Tracker Boats?” Was the “Tracker Boats” logo on the sign “authorized” or required by 70-10(10)? Is there anything in 70-10(10) prohibiting the use of language on the sign describing the specific business operation the traffic is being directed into such as, was used in the “Tracker Boat” sign, “Service Department?” Is the definition of “Logo” as contained in the BMC different from the normally accepted definition of “Logo?” If a term is defined in an ordinance is the definition of that term incorporated by reference wherever that term is subsequently used in the ordinance?