Simpsonville pays off project phase, passes along LED request

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Utility phase expenses up; zoning language addressed

By Steve Doyle

Issues involving the downtown Village Center District in Simpsonville – at least changes involving those long-range plans – dominated the discussion at Tuesday’s meeting of the Simpsonville City Commission.

Commissioners voted to close out payment for the first phase of the sidewalk project for the downtown corridor and also approved on first reading a text amendment for a zone change for that corridor to allow for moderately sized LED signs.

The final payment for the utility relocation aspect of the sidewalk project – with water and sewer lines being moved to make room for new construction along the south side of U.S. 60 between Old Veechdale Road and Fairview Drive – was fairly straight forward despite change orders that cost the city $29,650 to be paid to Dallas Dean Inc. of Harrodsburg.

City Administrator David Eaton said the change orders were “a little higher than we had hoped,” but he said there were unexpected obstacles that mitigated those costs.

“First, when we went to tap into the water line, it had been so long, we had to replace valves outside of the project area,” he said. “Second we had fiber optics in there, and we had to be really careful with that, so where you usually go two feet wide, we had to go four feet. And because we were going wider and had to put rock at the bottom – that was the biggest part of it.”

Eaton said all the work was complete and that the water and sewer lines had passed inspection. West Shelby Water District, he said, also saved the city money by having some valves that could be used to keep its customers in water while the project was being completed.

“I was on site for most of the job and can justify these change orders,” said Mayor Steve Eden, who is employed as general manager of the water district.

Eaton also said that the next phase of the project, the construction of the sidewalks and amenities, now awaited the federal grant funds to be released in Washington, D.C.

“It’s all done in Frankfort,” Eaton said. “But the funds can’t be released to us until they are released in Washington, and that’s done in phases. We hope it won’t take too long. But it’s in the hands of the federal government.”

LED sign advances

But the discussion about the LED sign language was a bit more protracted because of concerns that the size of such signs would be kept small enough to meet the plans for the village center.

Simpsonville Baptist Church Pastor Steve Boyd had approached the city earlier this year asking for the OK to erect such a sign, and the city had asked the Triple S Planning Commission to review the language that defines what can be built in a Village Center Form District, the special zoning district the commission had asked be created.

“They [Triple S] had a hearing and came up with suggestions of what we have to adopt by ordinance,” City Attorney Hite Hays said.

Michael Hesse, the newest member of the commission, suggested that the first reading of that ordinance be delayed until the commission’s meeting on Wednesday so that the wording of the text amendment could be reviewed more thoroughly to ensure that proposed LED signs would not be too large.

“I’m in favor of the concept of the text amendment,” Hesse said, “but I’m uncertain about where it says ‘fifty percent of allowed sign area.’ That may allow the LED sign to be bigger than we expect.”

Eaton said he had conferred with Triple S Executive Director Ryan Libke and been assured that other zoning regulations regarding sign size that specifies half the window size. “We’re talking about signs on the street right next to the sidewalk,” he said. “The whole thing is tending to smaller signs.”

Commissioner Cary Vowels noted language that addresses some of Hesse’s concern: “This [item 1-d] would limit the signs. Freestanding [LED] signs are forbidden.”

Hearing that, Hesse withdrew his suggestion to table, and the ordinance was passed for a second reading.

Also at the meeting, commissioners:

  • Heard from Hays that the city’s contract with Time Warner Cable (parent of Insight) would expire later this year and that he had been working with the company’s officials on terms of a new, non-exclusive franchise agreement, leaving the city open to competition. He said a resolution would have to be passed to approve that contract. Eden told commissioners that they would receive copies of the proposed agreement for their review so they would be prepared to address it at the next meeting (Wednesday).
  • Heard a proclamation from Eden that Thursday would be Children and Families Mental Health Awareness Day.