How many pounds of flesh to invest in Dayton?

It seems like a recurring theme: If you want to do business, you have to jump through hoops like a circus dog, while balancing a spinning basketball, on a yardstick, perched on your nose. (A nod to an old friend who died recently and probably could have done it).

Last night I sat through a two-and-a-half-hour spectacle of stupidity as the Board of Zoning Appeals held court on the Key Ad gateway sign on US 35. In the end, the vote was unanimous for it (thankfully) but- the process was painful to watch, even without a dog in the show.

This process has been in the works for over a year. The people from Key Ads have bent over backwards, forwards and made giant strides in trying to meet the City half way in a balancing act that makes putting a new billboard up more complex than brain surgery. From offering multiple options of non-conforming billboards traded in for one new one, to hiring an architect to reinvent the common billboard, Key Ads went above and beyond to placate the powers that be.

By the time they got to the BZA they were “appealing” for three variances- two of which were widely acknowledged as givens:

  • The height of the board had to be higher because US 35 is elevated
  • The distance from the “residential district” was measured to the zoning map line- which falls in the middle of the Eastbound lane of US 35- yet the closest house isn’t within 300 feet, which would comply with the code.

The only remaining issue was the setback requirements. And here is where the butchers of city hall started thinking “How much more flesh can we take?”

Jeffery Paine sits on the BZA. I’m calling him out, because, frankly- he deserves to be tortured in the same way he tried to twist the knife in this process not just one more turn, but several. A city staffer, whose name I didn’t get also deserves a spanking for throwing into the mix of options for the vote- a line about “reducing the size of the board by 25%” which threw even more confusion into the process. This was an appeal- and a hearing- where the facts and the negotiations should be done- and only the questions of the three variances should be discussed.

Really- 25%? Where does this number come from? Did the staffer all of a sudden have some expert understanding of the billboard industry that none of us had? This is like telling a restaurant how to cook its food as a condition of an occupancy permit.

Mr. Paine started down the path of insanity with suggestions that the negotiated swaps for non-conforming billboards to be traded for the new board use his equation- based on number of cars per day, instead of using the rules that were set before in the zoning code based on square footage. I didn’t know the BZA was able to make rules up at will, did you? It’s this kind of kangaroo court atmosphere that makes developing anything in Dayton, almost impossible.

To showcase the unprofessional nature of the process, one had to look no further than the self-appointed Southeast Priority Board Land Use Committee head, Mike Weitzel, who got up and spoke for well over double the alloted 5 minutes, repeating himself at least twice in his effort to defend his “tie-breaking” vote to deny this process and bump it up to the BZA. That extra five minutes cost me an additional $1 in the City Hall garage. I find it sad that citizens who have to come to meetings like this to get the government they want- have to pay for parking, while the pedantic pundit, Weitzel, gets his parking paid for. If you care enough about your government to attend one of these sessions- the city should pay for your parking.

In the end, the new board got approved. Nick Keyes Jr. probably feels like an overworked circus dog at this point- and may think long and hard about doing any more business in the city, but, maybe he likes the pain? They certainly did everything they could to extract every last pound of flesh before allowing him to invest in Dayton.

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