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Approving Community Center Sign Could Send Mixed Messages

The Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department has a proposal on the table for a new electronic reader board that does not follow the city's sign code.

High upon Parks and Recreation Director Christmas list is an electronic reader board to compliment the city’s beautiful new .

The center, formerly the city’s library, and since then has been adorned only with a static sign on the north end of the lot that still reads “Future Home of the Greenfield Community Center.”

At Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. Plan Commission meeting at City Hall, Jaquish, along with Mark Rausch of Clear Channel, will ask for a sign waiver that would allow Clear Channel to construct a reader board monument that stands 8 ½ feet high and 14 feet long.

The actually reader board would be 6 feet high and 12 feet long.

“It’s a beautiful board,” Jaquish said. “Clear Channel said it would be the first one of its kind that it has.

“It’s important not only to get the message out about programming and things of that nature, but it’s also a source of revenue to support the Community Center.”

Jaquish said the board would come at no cost to the city and that Clear Channel would pay for the purchase, installation and any ongoing utility costs for the board. In addition, Planning Commission notes indicate there have been discussions between the city and Clear Channel that would allow for monthly payments by Clear Channel to the city, which could be earmarked toward Community Center operational costs.

The reader board would have seven, 8-second rotating ‘screens,’ one of which would be dedicated for public use – city promotions, Community Center-related messages, etc. – and the other seven for commercial advertising.

The commercial advertising, however, is a sticky situation that could derail the proposal. According to Community Development Manager Chuck Erickson, the Planning Commission will likely recommend the Common Council deny the plan as proposed because of the city’s sign code that prohibits off-premises signs, or signs that are not appurtenant to the use of the property where the sign is located.

A ‘yes’ recommendation would open Pandora’s box, Erickson said.

“Whatever our premise would be for saying yes, how do we, rhetorically say no to ACME Inc. or John Doe business owner who can make a similar arrangement for their property?” Erickson said. “The notion of, ‘Well it’s for the city and for community good, we’re willing to raise money toward an operational expense. But any business could claim the exact same thing.

“Whether it's Clear Channel or Lamar, whatever the sign may be, if someone has frontage on a commercial corridor – and we’ve got a few of those in the city – we could have message boards popping up that are totally unrelated to the business that’s there.

“On the other side, the money coming in would go toward a big chunk of the operational costs of the community center. This isn’t a clean ‘yes’ or ‘no’ kind of thing. There are reasons for one recommendation or the other.”

The Planning Commission can recommend to the Common Council that the proposal be denied, but ultimately it is up to the Common Council, which will likely take up the matter next Tuesday.

Other Planning Commission business

The Planning Commission will also hear a proposal to improve the landscaping at the WE Energies substation at the northeast corner of 43rd Street and Layton Avenue. The changes would include replacing the existing chain-link fence with a different type of security fencing and the addition of 16 trees around the substation.

Also, business owner Leonard Buda will share his proposal for an organic gardening shop to fill a vacant building at 3318 W. Loomis.

David Cotey December 13, 2011 at 08:41 PM
Passing up a free, valuable and much-needed sign, or face possible double standard questions. Definitely a tough call, in my opinion.
just fyi December 14, 2011 at 02:50 PM
I do not see it as that tough a call - this is basically an advertising billboard on city property disguised as a sign. the city would never allow a private business to install anything even remotely like it. Whats next, advertising for Taco Bell on the sides of the cities trucks. We have seen enough of do as we say, not as we do in government
Russ Spahn December 14, 2011 at 04:16 PM
If the Council approves this sign, the City's credibility will once again be compromised because we would be permitting a double standard. The City has been adamant about signage for many years. To allow a waiver simply because it is a City building is wrong. I have been a strong advocate for the Community Center and will continue to be. However, the City needs to follow its own rules.
4 Greenfield December 15, 2011 at 03:45 AM
It is a given that the rec dept is greatly under-funded and has to continually find ways to creatively generate non-tax revenue. This is tough decision. This is a pretty busy intersection and an electric sign with 8 rotating messages could be quite distracting, so safety should also be considered. As to a double standard, maybe it is time to take another look at our existing sign ordinance? All those low-profile monument-style signs have been doing a pretty good job of obstructing sight lines for drivers leaving businesses in Greenfield, such as by Barnard and 76th. Have you ever tried to turn right onto 76th Street from Barnard (coming from Outback Steakhouse)?
robert heule December 20, 2011 at 01:37 AM
First and foremost is that the city must refrain from regulating the content of the messages the sign sends. That would government censorship. Whether or not to accept advertising of any kind would be up to Clear Channel. I believe the current sign code prohibits electric signs(enacted prior to high tech electronic reader boards) for political ads, but not for other advertising. The entire sign code should be reviewed before approval. There are things in it that raise constitutional questions which are not always worthwhile challenging depending on importance at the moment. We also realize the sensitivity of the southwest which should be ignored in favor of free speech. Outside of obscenity, libel, slander, or racial or ethnic degradation, nobody has the right to not be offended

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