March 5, 2019 | Sign Code, Goals and Priorities and More
Posted on 03/08/2019

The Newcastle City Council roundups offer a digest of notable items for those who can't make it to the regular meetings. Listen to the audio from the March 5, 2019, meeting here and view the meeting agenda packet here. View past City Council roundups at newcastlewa.gov/councilrecaps.

SIGN CODE UPDATE

The Newcastle City Council is nearing the end of an extensive  review of an updated sign code. A 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision is driving jurisdictions to re-evaluate their sign regulations to ensure they don’t violate  freedom of speech.

In Reed v. Gilbert, the Supreme Court’s decision determined that a code that makes any distinctions based on the sign’s message is unlawfully content based. This position had the effect of making many sign codes across the United States, including Newcastle’s, unconstitutional. It’s not uncommon to see codes with certain content-based regulations for real estate, political and garage sale signs.

In March 2017, city staff introduced a model sign code drafted in response to the Reed decision. The model code was crafted, in part, by Newcastle’s own Community Development Director Steve Osguthorpe, and was made available to all jurisdictions as a baseline to ensure their regulations conformed with the Supreme Court decision. 

Under Director Osguthorpe’s leadership, the city’s all-volunteer Planning Commission spent several months gathering public feedback and recommending specific changes to ensure the code reflected Newcastle values. The Newcastle City Council got its first look at the proposed code during its Jan. 15 meeting and continued that discussion again on March 5.

In a 4-3 vote, the City Council approved one motion, amending the sign code to allow temporary signs in medians.

This sign code will regulate signs in Newcastle for years to come. While it can’t regulate a sign’s content, the code does have the power to set restrictions on size and placement. Make your voice heard and let the City Council know what you think about the impact of signage in our community at the next meeting on March 19, when the council could choose to adopt the proposed code (March 14 Update: The sign code is not on the March 19 meeting agenda, however, you're still welcome and encouraged to voice your thoughts on the sign code! It'll likely return to the agenda on April 2.)

RESOURCES: March 5 Agenda Bill | Summary of Proposed Sign Code | Draft of Proposed Sign Code | Jan. 15 City Council Roundup

GENERAL UPDATES

— Finance Director Don Palmer reviewed two significant revenue changes requiring an amendment to the current year budget. City staff audited King County records and discovered there was a credit on property tax that had been mistakenly applied to Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) funds. This lowered property tax and increased REET. There also was a savings realized in a capital improvement project. Expenses were lower than expected due to staff turnover and staffing changes. The net result was an increase in revenue in the amount of $572,500 that was applied to reserves.

— The Newcastle City Council approved its annual list of goals and strategic priorities. They adopted the document (found here), with one amendment to item A, which now reads “Continue to manage City operations with sound fiscal planning and actions that ensure long-term sustainability while being cognizant of the tax burden on our residents and businesses.”

— The Newcastle City Council got its first look at a franchise agreement that would allow a company working on behalf of Verizon to install and expand fiber-optic lines in the city right-of-way.

The Newcastle City Council wants to hear from you! Members of the public are invited to share thoughts during public hearings or two open public comment periods at meetings. Regular meetings of the City Council occur on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at City Hall, starting at 7 p.m. You can also email your thoughts to councilmembers. To send a message to the entire council, email the city clerk at saram@newcastlewa.gov. You can also email them individually (view all councilmember emails here). 

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