BOSCOBEL - Boscobel’s downtown historic district is no more.
On a unanimous vote at its March 6 meeting, the City Council repealed the ordinance that designated the district.
The repealed section of the municipal code singled out the blocks on Wisconsin Avenue from Parker Street to Commercial Row and had imposed a design review for both new construction and renovation.
Mike Reynolds, City Engineer/Director of Public Works, told the council the designation pre-dates his tenure.
“It’s never really been followed since probably the mid to late 90s,” Reynolds, who sits on the planning commission, told the council. “With developing this last comprehensive plan, it was like, well, if we’re not going to follow it the way it’s supposed to be followed, why do we even have it?”
The old restrictions were written to keep development in the historic district consistent with the existing structures in the zone: For example, setbacks, parking, window height, and even exterior paint colors were subject to review by a mayor-appointed design committee.
Reynolds pointed to the Community First Bank structure as an example of a new building working within the standards.
Several buildings in the zone are for sale, or recently changed hands, and one of the structures is condemned with an order for demolition.
City Administrator Patricia Smith, who has named downtown redevelopment as a priority, said the plan to eliminate the restrictions dates to December 2021, when the city completed its comprehensive plan.
“Apparently there used to be a committee that would meet, however not with frequency,” Smith wrote in an email. “Since the Comprehensive Plan was delivered back in December 2021, there was no follow-through to change the language in the other areas of the city matters. As we were working on the sign ordinance, we took the opportunity to update the language there to remove the historic district.”
Sign ordinance updated
Boscobel’s sign ordinance received a major overhaul, expanding from 3 to 15 pages of rules. The update was designed to update the city’s guidelines and bring them in line with other nearby communities, according to City Administrator Smith.
Much of the substance of the ordinance remains unchanged and include safety rules concerning the size, location, and construction of signs in the city.
New regulations include temporary event banners and signs on private property, which in the previous ordinance were not addressed. The new rules specify that a permit is required for such signs (as of 2022, the cost of a sign permit was $40). Temporary event signs can go up no more than 30 days before the event and come down within 2 days. The ordinance prohibits advertising for events that take place outside of the city limits.
Other signs prohibited by the new ordinance include any parked vehicle or trailer advertising a product or business, or any sign of any type that “contain statements, words or pictures of obscene, pornographic or immoral subjects.”
The old ordinance was written long before the advent of flashing LED signs like the one on the Blaine Theater. The new language permits such signs in the business district but bans, city-wide, all other signs with flashing lights, as well as “animated signs, or signs having moving parts,” according to Kory Anderson, Vice President of General Engineering Company, who consults with the city on zoning and ordinances.
In residential neighborhoods, however, “electronic variable message signs” are not permitted, though any existing today are grandfathered, and can be replaced and repaired in residential neighborhoods, so long as they don’t change in size or intensity.
The board also unanimously approved:
• renewing the rental agreement with Grant County Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) for use of the Tuffley Center at the same rate as last year: $3,600.
• permitting an alley closure behind City Hall and the Pour House for the Boscobel Fire Department fundraiser, which will take place the weekend of March 31.
• the final sale of land adjacent to Rex Smith’s property on Wisconsin Avenue for $4,377.00. The council opted not to require a development agreement, as the land is a sliver of unused city property. Smith plans to use the land for an outdoor kitchen and gathering space.• a permit to sell beer and wine at Smith’s establishment.