The only hit song for the 1960s Five Man Electrical Band included the refrain “Signs, signs, everywhere a sign, blotting out the scenery, breaking my mind.”
There are now fewer signs in Platteville’s business areas, including along Business 151, after a city crackdown on temporary signs in front of businesses. Several business owners received letters ordering the signs be removed by last Friday.
City director of community planning and development Joe Carroll said 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.
“If we have a complaint against one property, we can’t just pick on that property; we have to be consistent,” said Carroll.
City manager Karen Kurt said there is “always a tension in a community between businesses that want to promote activities going on in the business and citizens who want to maintain standards of appearance. I don’t think it’s unique to Platteville that we have creep when temporary signs become permanent.”
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 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.
“I think the number and frequency of banners has increased over the years,” said Carroll. “Unless it becomes an issue, if nobody abuses it, we don’t count the number of days and the number of times they have banners.”
Carroll said former city manager Larry Bierke placed an emphasis on property management issues, and “This kind of falls into that category as well. The emphasis on different rules changes in different years depends on the priorities of the [Common] Council.”
While Kurt said “There was nothing specifically from me that came down,” she added, “I support them enforcing it, though.”