Without a permit in hand, don't erect a sign, Liberty Township trustees told a representative of Lehner Signs Inc., Sept. 15.

Without a permit in hand, don't erect a sign, Liberty Township trustees told a representative of Lehner Signs Inc., Sept. 15.

During the public comment portion of the trustees' meeting, Robin Owens, president of the company, asked that a $225 penalty fee be waived related to a temporary sign his company installed at 3952 W. Powell Road.

After considerable discussion, trustees Robert Mann and Peggy Guzzo voted against waiving the penalty. Trustee Curt Sybert voted to waive the fee.

Owens, who said his company has installed three to four signs in the township over the past three years, said he was disappointed.

"We try to follow the rules and feel like those who follow the rules aren't recognized any differently than those who don't," Owens told ThisWeek.

The company submitted a temporary sign application and paid the application's $225 fee on Aug. 15, Owens said. On Aug. 27, a member of his staff spoke by phone to Holly Foust, township zoning inspector. Foust told the company its application was missing information required for its approval, Owens said and Foust confirmed.

The company e-mailed the needed information to the township on Aug. 28 and then installed the sign.

The township called the company, saying it did not have a permit, that it had been incorrectly installed on easement and that the company would be charged a penalty fee. The company removed the sign and installed it in the correct location, all without a permit.

"I'm requesting the penalty fee be waived," Owens asked the board. "There was a miscommunication between our office and the zoning office. We spoke with them over the phone and understood that we had our approval -- albeit verbal -- and proceeded to put our sign up and they informed us a week later that the permit was not approved and that they wanted to assess a double application fee."

Both Guzzo and Mann said if the company had removed the sign and not reinstalled it, they would have less difficulty approving a request for waiving the penalty.

"If you hadn't put the sign back up, I'd have an easier time," Mann said, "but once you were informed -- whether it was a miscommunication or whatever -- that there was no permit and you go and put the sign back up anyway, we have to enforce our code. It puts us between a rock and a hard place. If we waive it for you, then we're going to have every person coming in saying, 'I thought the process was too long or there was miscommunication or I was tired of waiting.'"

"I would be inclined to waive it, but it's up," Guzzo said. "You're a business. Clearly you know you have to have permits before you put up signs. My position is that we have a policy and we have to stick to it."

Sybert disagreed.

"I think it's a miscommunication and I don't want Liberty Township to be known as a township that you can't get anything done in, and quite honestly I've heard that before. I don't think this is an egregious situation. He paid the (application) fee," Sybert said.

Guzzo asked Foust what effect waiving the fee might have on her office.

"I don't know. We could have a lot of people say, 'I sent it by e-mail or fax, talked with them over the phone they said it was OK so here I go.' It would be a mess," Foust said.

"Why not get conformation before you do something?"