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Greenfield Community Center Sign Proposal Sent Back for Tweaking

Approving the sign as presented would have violated the city's sign code.

Faced with deciding between a steady revenue stream for the city’s new and violating its own sign code, the Greenfield Common Council asked for more time.

On Tuesday, the five alderpersons requested that a proposed agreement between the Parks and Recreation Department and Clear Channel, , go back to the Parks and Recreation Board for some possible tweaking and fine-tuning.

Approving the proposal as presented to the council Tuesday would violate the city’s sign code ordinance that does not allow off-site signage, or signage that does not directly relate back to the property the sign sits on.

The sign at the Community Center would have several rotating screens with one dedicated to city or Community Center-related messages and the others used as paid advertisements from off-site businesses. In exchange for the prime location, Clear Channel has offered to pay all building, installation and operating costs of the sign, as well as a monthly or annual fee to the Parks and Recreation Department.

City Attorney Roger Pyzyk cautioned against the precedent the city would be setting by approving the sign.

“You’d be saying, if the city is making money off it, which is not a terrible thing, then we turn a blind eye to the ordinance and we allow off-site signage,” he said. “But now we’ve got an argument that becomes indefensible … when billboard companies come in and start requesting to put up signs.”

Alderman Karl Kastner was concerned about the city's aesthetics if it allowed this sign, and subsequently had to allow future signs. He envisioned billboards and signs popping up all over the city’s busy commercial corridors.

“I don’t know if that’s the look the city is desiring,” Kastner said. “I don’t know if we want a bank advertised at , or eggs. … I’d love to see the money come into the city, but it’s a terrible trend to start. It’s literally in a residential neighborhood. I don’t like that direction.”

Denise Collins of the Parks and Recreation Board called the proposal a creative example of public and private partnership, and praised the financial potential of the board and its ability to post emergency messages such as Amber Alerts.

Director of Neighborhood Services Richard Sokol said the Plan Commission opposed the proposal as it was presented because of the precedent it would set, but also pointed out the Parks and Recreation Department has been challenged to cover the costs to build and operate the Community Center. He borrowed the now-popular word used by Gov. Scott Walker when explaining the city’s role in helping the Parks and Recreation Department do just that.

“We have to give the Parks and Recreation Committee the tools,” he said. “This sign is the tool to do it.”

Mayor Michael Neitzke said the arrangement with Clear Channel, which was estimated at $12,000 annually, would cover half to two-thirds of the center’s operating costs. He said he shared the city’s concerns of the potential fallout for approving the sign.

“It’s not as simple as any of us might have thought it was early on,” he said. “The legal concerns are real.”

robert heule December 22, 2011 at 12:12 AM
The Park and Rec board is one of the greatest institutions in Greenfield government. The sign proposal however should have been sent to the Legislative Committee. There are serious legal and constitutional issues that need to be resolved including whether or not the city should regulate the content of the messages.If the sign at the intended location is treated any different than others in the city. Is Clear Channel in this case operating as a medium or an advertising agency? Will equal time be given to opposite opinions if there is a political or policy message? All of this stuff needs to be answered.
4 Greenfield December 22, 2011 at 04:47 PM
The sign ordinance needs to be reviewed and possibly changed (but not necessarily because of this money-generating proposal). Monument style signs which seem to be the flavor of the day in Greenfield signage often obstruct the view-line for motorists and pedestrians! This would be a great time to air out the issues and make needed changes to the ordinance which might also, as an off-shoot, allow the Rec Dept to generate needed revenue while improving a somewhat imperfect ordinance.

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