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City temporary sign crackdown includes church
City to review ordinance
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The sign in front of the First Congregational United Church of Christ Cunningham Center was taken down earlier this year.

For almost the past year, the First Congregational United Church of Christ’s Cunningham House on Market Street in Platteville had a sign that said “Jesus didn’t reject people. Neither do we.”

The sign is no longer on the front of the house — not because of any change in church philosophy, but because of the city’s crackdown on temporary signs that appears to have extended to at least one non-business.

Owners of businesses on Business 151 and in other areas reported last month they had received letters ordering the signs be removed. 

City director of community planning and development Joe Carroll said last month the letters were prompted by a complaint the city manager’s office received about temporary signs in front of Hartig Drug, 180 W. Pine St. An Historic Planning Commission meeting about a proposed permanent sign at the new Barber Shop Rock location at 190 Market St. prompted discussion about other signs, Carroll said.

However, Rev. Zayna Thompson, pastor of First Congregational, said at the April 26 Common Council meeting her church was also told to remove its sign, which she called “a unique message of extravagant welcome.”

“We got a ton of response, including people coming up to thank us for the sign during music in the park, emails from strangers who drove past and phone calls from neighbors who were surprised to learn a church like ours existed,” said Thompson. “Unfortunately, we failed to do our own research and were surprised after a year and a half to receive a notice that our temporary sign did not adhere to code. …

“We were saddened to realize that to stay within city policy we would have to spend $200 to hang a sign for no more than eight weeks a year. While I understand the need to have policy and for keeping the reigns on signage around town, this simply seems like a large amount of money for an organization such as ours that seeks to use what resources we do have responsibly.”

Carroll told the council the complaints “led to a city-wide sweep of temporary signs,” but it also led to widespread complaints about the citywide sign sweep.

Carroll said city staff would be reviewing the sign ordinance for possible council consideration later this year. 

The city’s 16-page-long sign ordinance — part of the city’s 139-page-long zoning ordinance — limits installation of one temporary sign of up to 50 square feet to two weeks four times per year. The provision is included in requirements in the Central Business Transition, B-1 Neighborhood Business, B-2 Central Business, B-3 Highway Business, the three manufacturing zoning districts, I-1 Institutional and C-1 Conservation districts. The ordinance also allows up to one portable sign that can be lighted, but flashing lights are prohibited.

Temporary signs are not allowed in residential zoning districts, although Carroll said last month there have been past complaints about temporary signs “all over town, in residential areas and in right-of-ways.”

The ordinance requires a permit for signs “to be displayed for a short period of time, including banners publicizing a special event, decorative-type displays or anything similar.” Permits are not required for “temporary public announcement and public service signs,” as well as real estate signs and political and campaign signs.