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2013-11-21

Yet another kerfuffle over signage in city

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

It's not looking good for businesses in the City of Bandera, which finds itself embroiled in yet another sign flap. The latest one swirls around The Olde Forge.
Owner Hy Rabon, who along with his partner, Leslie Hefner, owns the newly minted restaurant, bakery and deli combo at 807 Main Street, spoke to city council the evening of Thursday, Nov. 14, about his travails. The conversation continued with the Courier the next day.
At the meeting, Rabon understood that that neither council nor City Administrator Mike Cardenas could comment directly on his query. Nevertheless, Rabon repeatedly asked for clarification on the city's sign ordinance. "I can't understand it," he said. "I've been told my sign is illegal and I can't find (the reason) anywhere in the ordinance."
As Rabon explained, he had placed a triangular sign in the back of his pickup truck and parked it on his property. "It's a temporary sign in a motorized vehicle and, as I understand the ordinance, that's legal." Rabon told the Courier he changes wordage on the sign daily to advertise lunch specials, college and NFL football games during the weekends and to show his support for the local high school football team.
The brouhaha began just after The Olde Forge's ribbon cutting on Oct. 18, which the mayor attended. A few days later, utilities clerk Lisa Chacon called Rabon to inform him about the illegality of a sign in the back of his truck with the words: "Grand opening, live music." Purportedly, Chacon informed him: "Sandwich boards are not allowed in the city." Apparently there was also a question about whether the pickup had been parked in a Texas Department of Transportation right-of-way.
"I told her the truck had been parked on private property and it was staying up," Rabon said. "I also asked for a copy of the ordinance."
According to Rabon, a few days later City Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks came to the restaurant with a copy of the ordinance and the relevant portions highlighted.
After getting little satisfaction from the city about the matter, Rabon hired an attorney who attempted to contact Cardenas and municipal attorney Monte Akers. During the city council meeting, Rabon said he had also left messages with Cardenas, but calls were not returned.
"Finally I just stopped by the city office to speak to Cardenas about the interpretation of the sign ordinance," Rabon said. "He asked me if I had hired an attorney and I said, 'Yes.' Then Mike said, 'Because our attorneys have been talking, we can't talk to you'." Rabon then contacted his attorney who said he had not discussed the ongoing problem with either Cardenas or Akers.
After Rabon finished his comment, Mayor Don Clark noted that an appointment would be set up "next week" to discuss the matter. However, "next week's" meeting came the next day.
On Nov. 15, Rabon met with Victor Strickland, who serves as the city inspector and code enforcement officer for the City of Bandera. Strickland reiterated that the sign was prohibited as per city ordinances. "He said it was considered a portable sign, which is illegal. However, he did say 'spirit banners' were legal," Rabon said. "I guess that means if I put 'Go Bulldogs' on my temporary sign, it'd be okay."
Rabon went on to say that ordinances prohibit permanent signs placed on non-motorized vehicles. "Again, my temporary sign is in the back of my pickup, which is parked on my private property and not in the right-of-way as was contended."
After the less-than-satisfactory meeting with Strickland, Rabon conferred with his attorney, who asked him about the outcome. "I told him, 'Well, last night I thought I had won, but this morning I'm not so sure'."
For his part, Cardenas acknowledged Rabon's meeting with Strickland was a little rough. In his report, Strickland described Rabon as "combative" and "uncooperative."
Cardenas insisted that Rabon's sign is portable because it can be moved from place to place in his truck. "Portable signs are illegal in the city," Cardenas reiterated.
For his part, Rabon is determined to continue displaying the temporary sign. "It's going back up and I'm not going down without a fight."
In a related matter, the court date for Rick Anderson's sign dispute is 9 am, Friday, Dec. 13, on the second floor of the Bandera County Courthouse.