The debate over the city of Hilliard's stepped-up enforcement of its graphics and sign code may continue over the summer but it won't take place in city council chambers.

The debate over the city of Hilliard's stepped-up enforcement of its graphics and sign code may continue over the summer but it won't take place in city council chambers.

Following a public hearing Monday night, legislation redefining the standards for hours that illuminated signs can be lit app-ears to be on track for final approval at city council's July 14 meeting, the group's last regularly scheduled meeting before the annual one-month summer recess.

Residents who support the city's efforts to enforce the graphics and sign code and business representatives who want those standards relaxed spoke out during Monday night's second reading and public hearing on the hours of illumination issue.

Council President Brett Sciotto, who authored the legislation, said he did so in an effort to relax some of the standards imposed on businesses and thought his legislation represented a good faith compromise.

Key to Sciotto's legislation was an amendment allowing businesses to illuminate signage until 10 p.m, instead of the old standard that called for signs to be turned off 30 minutes after the close of business.

"If you look at the businesses we have in Hilliard, the vast majority of them are closed by 10 o'clock at night," Sciotto said. "What I was trying to do was find a time that would minimize the impact if we allow an open business to keep their lights on I wanted to find a reasonable compromise."

Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce President Libby Gierach renewed her call for the chamber and its member businesses to have more input in the process because they are directly affected by the code.

On behalf of the business community, Gierach asked for five considerations. They included:

Changing the time for illumination to correspond with the midnight curfew for minors 17 years and younger.

Allowing businesses outside a specific distance of residences to leave signs illuminated through the night if they choose to.

A clarification from the city that would better define signs that are not to be illuminated.

Allowing businesses with 24-hour customer access to leave their signs illuminated.

Modifying the penalty provisions of the sign ordinance, reducing the penalty from a first-degree misdemeanor, which could include up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

City Council Vice President William Uttley said he thinks the city's sign code is reasonable.

"Our sign code is a lot more liberal than many other community sign codes," Uttley said. "This amendment President Sciotto brought forward and I support, I think is very reasonable. I think this represents a reasonable compromise."

Councilman Al Iosue, who has worked closely with the chamber and business representatives, said he would not criticize the administration for enforcing existing laws and said he though Sciotto's legislation was a compromise that was good for local businesses and residents alike.

"I cannot and will not criticize the administration for enforcing the law," Iosue said. "It has been on the books for many, many years and they are doing their job."

Mayor Don Schonhardt said he refused to apologize for his decision to step up enforcement of the city's graphics and sign code.

"We have been enforcing the code consistently since the day I walked in office," Schonhardt said. "I can't speak to what my predecessors did or how they did it. The fact that it has taken this long to ruffle the feathers of a handful of businesses, I think speaks pretty darned well for our code enforcement officers, who have been, I think, extremely lenient and have worked diligently to allow the business community to adapt to the standards that are in place."

Schonhardt said the community needed standards to be enforced.

"This community, quite frankly, needed standards and it will continue to need standards in the future," he said. "As we develop as a community, what you are finding here is the old zoning laws are going by the wayside. We are integrating the business community in with the residential community."

Schonhardt said Hilliard is evolving into a different community than it was 20 years ago.

"With gas prices, $4, $5, $6 a gallon, people want to live in proximity to where they work, where they shop. To continue to live in the past would be a huge mistake. This is not the Hilliard of 20 years ago."