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2014-04-17

Sign saga: City, 0; Anderson, 1

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured: Because of what he considers harassment from City of Bandera officials, Rick Anderson declined to apply for a renewal of his temporary permit to operate a barbecue eatery on Main Street. "The city code inspector who's been harassing me would have to sign off on that permit," Anderson said, during an April 14 interview. "Do you think that's going to happen? I consider that to be a conflict of interest."



For Courier readers following the "sign flap saga," featuring the City of Bandera and Rick Anderson, all charges against Anderson have been dismissed.
City officials contended that Anderson had violated several of the municipality's myriad sign ordinances during his short sojourn as a temporary business at 1114A Main Street. City attorney Zachariah Evans apparently thought otherwise.
Judge Frances Kaiser presided over Anderson's Friday, April 11, pre-trial hearing. The court proceeding, originally slated for Nov. 4, 2013, was postponed several times. The hearing addressed two violations of the sign ordinance to which Anderson had ostensibly failed to adhere. Inspector-Code Enforcer Victor Strickland had issued the violations last September.
Bandera attorney Jerry Phillips represented Anderson during last week's hearing. Most of the action took place behind closed doors after Kaiser requested both parties confer and possibly resolve the issues.
In an interview on Monday, April 14, Anderson said Evans asked him to present a timeline of the events leading up to his summons to appear in court.
In September 2013, Strickland informed Anderson that an informational sign for the barbecue eatery was violating city ordinances. The chief complaints being that it had not been anchored into the ground securely and that it was located in the Texas Department of Transportation right-of-way.
However, Anderson had been issued a sign permit by the city on Sept. 25. Earlier, he had been issued a permit for a temporary business from May 6, 2013, to Jan. 16, 2014.
According to Anderson, after Strickland gave him a notice of violation on Sept. 17, Anderson anchored the sign more securely. When apprised of the changes, Strickland allegedly told Anderson, "It's finally legal." Additionally, Anderson contends the sign was not in the ROW and, in fact, TxDOT never interceded in the matter.
However, on Oct. 17, 2013, Deputy Marshal Will Dietrich issued Anderson two citations for violating City Ordinance 3.05.103, prohibited signs, and City Ordinance 3.05.104, portable sign. Both ordinances are lengthy and can be viewed at www.cityofbandera.com, by clicking on the "Codes and Ordinances" section, specifically, Bandera Code of Ordinances, Chapter 3 - Building Regulations.
During the mediation on April 11, Evans apparently asked Anderson, "You had a permit before being issued a summons?"
When Anderson answered affirmatively, Evans allegedly replied, "Well, we're going to dismiss this case."
According to Anderson, Evans also added that he had to deal with "the legality of the summons, not the politics." The matter was resolved behind closed doors in less than 10 minutes.
As part of his timeline, Anderson also provided Evans with photos of many sign violations occurring at the same time he felt he was being harassed by the city. "And none of these sign violations had variances, because I checked with city clerk Lisa Chacon," Anderson said. "I'm not picking on these businesses. We need this sort of thing to conduct business in Bandera, but there ought to be a level playing field for everyone."
Another interesting occurrence was that on Dec. 12, 2013, Strickland further inspected Williams' premises. As a result, his action request noted: "R/O observed that its location had an illegal wall sign and that the business, according to City Code, Sec. 4.04.009, is a prohibited business in the city. R/O suggests that all city permits be pulled and trailer removed from the city limits."
This section of the city code discusses wheeled vehicles or trailers and portable buildings - except in connection with a temporary business duly licensed by the city. Anderson's license for a temporary business ran through January 2014.
At that time, Cardenas told the Courier he had not asked Strickland to make a second inspection of Anderson's business. Interestingly, Cardenas found Strickland's recommendation under a stack of papers on his desk the day it was written. No citations were issued as a result of the December inspection.
From Oct. 1 through March 2, Strickland completed 125 inspections within the one-square mile city, billing the municipality for $6,475, according to a transaction list by vendor.
In an Open Records Request, Anderson was unable to ascertain who had complained about his business sign because the city apparently does not keep records of complainants.
However, one complainant might have contacted Councilman Glenn Clark, who brought up the subject of temporary permits during a meeting. Questioning whether temporary businesses hurt permanent businesses, Clark said repeatedly, "I'm not singling out anyone in particular."
However, Cardenas pointed out that only one temporary business permit had been issued recently - and that was to Anderson.
Clark declined to say who had complained to him.
Additionally, it was reported that a councilman had been extremely upset after learning the charges against Anderson had been dismissed.
To some, both occurrences involving councilmen might indicate that Anderson had been the subject of harassment as he has contended all along.
Although vindicated, Anderson declined to state whether the sign flap saga was closed at last so Courier readers are advised to stay tuned.