Even though it wasn’t an official item on the agenda for last week’s council meeting, the buzz surrounding the new tennis windscreen as a potential violation of the city sign ordinance drew a large crowd to Huxley’s council chambers.
Ballard coaches, parents and booster club members were on hand to voice their support for the recently installed windscreen around the high school tennis courts — a windscreen that supporters say is doing the job it was meant to do by providing tennis players protection from the wind.
Ballard Booster Club President Chad Winterboer was the first to the podium to address the council.
“I understand the situation with the windscreen being considered a sign and a complaint, and I understand the lawyers are looking into changing the ordinance. We were encouraged to have some people show up tonight to show how many people are upset by this. In the 10 years that the booster club has paid for numerous things, nothing has even come close to the amount of positive comments as this windscreen,” said Winterboer.
The school has received scores of compliments about the red-and-blue windscreen that says “Welcome to Ballard” on the side facing the road from students, parents, citizens and even visiting schools, according to Winterboer. But school pride and appearance wasn’t the main reason for installing it.
“It was designed to stop the wind,” said Winterboer. “The wind up there is absolutely horrible. The thought was, if we were going to spend this money, we may as well make it look nice. Never in a million years did we think it would be considered a sign.”
Winterboer concluded his statement by asking the council to dig deeper into their decision process, that the school would continue to have the desire to promote school pride on future projects, and that these kinds of restrictions provide unnecessary red tape for the school district.
Dave Rietz, a tennis parent and former member of the Huxley Planning and Zoning Committee, also argued that the windscreen does a great job of promoting school pride, student pride and pride for the community.
Rietz, who was part of the Planning and Zoning Committee at the time the original sign ordinance was developed, believes the original intent of the ordinance has no bearing on the windscreen.
“The main purpose, at that time, was to promote uniformity of signs. The goal of the windscreen is for the wind, not for advertising. By the pure definition of signs in the ordinance, the windscreen is, by definition, not even a sign.”
Craig Hamerlinck, another tennis parent, was the last member of the audience to speak, and asked the council to use common sense regarding the windscreen, which he believes should not be part of the sign ordinance. Hamerlinck argued that, if it is considered a sign, there should be waiver clauses for special situations, especially for something that creates a welcoming atmosphere to Ballard and Huxley like the windscreen does.
“I think if there is a way to create a waiver for something that’s clearly not violating [an ordinance], I think it’s just common sense,” said Hamerlinck. “If we take common sense out of our decision making, then what’s the point?”
Council had not yet received the draft ordinance, which was to be reviewed during a work session and discussed as a regular agenda item at an upcoming meeting.
In other council news:
An amendment to Ordinance 479, which authorizes the sale or display of fireworks in C-1, C-2, C-3, and M-1 districts was passed 4-1. The motion to waive a third reading was also passed 4-1.
Gerry Stoll was appointed the Interim Police Chief by unanimous vote of the council. There is no time limit on the hiring process to find Huxley’s next Chief of Police. Chief Pote’s retirement is effective June 1. The council is considering a search firm to assist in the selection process.