Jackson looking at new sign rules

Monday, January 12, 2004

Some think temporary signs trash up the town.

Others think they're essential for business.

The beauty of the beer-on-sale banners or the yellow and black, arrow-pointing marquee signs may be in the eye of the beholder, but the control of such advertising tools is in the hands of the Jackson Board of Aldermen.

At tonight's open study session, the board will hash out the particulars of temporary sign regulations.

"I think the council is a little bit tired of the way it looks, and we want to clean things up," said Alderman David Reiminger, a business owner who does not use temporary signs.

The issue is one of the last topics being considered as the city retools its planning and zoning ordinance.

The proposed 138-page overhaul, passed by the Planning and Zoning Commission in August, includes a range of regulation changes from cellular phone towers to billboards to the elimination of many special-use permits. The council has refined many of the changes and will pass the ordinance at a future meeting.

But the draft did not include any changes to temporary signs. The council decided to take on that topic after constituents complained that too many signs were cluttering the town, particularly on Jackson Boulevard.

"We have to do anything we can to support business community, but at the same time have to maintain a positive appearance of the way the town looks," said Alderman Kerry Hoffman.

Nothing has been determined yet, but the sentiment on the council is that all temporary signs should be just that -- temporary.

"Since the signs are temporary in nature, they kind of slid under the radar," said Janet Sanders, Jackson building and planning superintendent. "It's something you don't notice until there gets to be an abundance and people start to complain."

Marquees and banners

Temporary signs can be separated into two kinds: The movable marqees and the banners.

In early December, city employees counted 153 temporary signs in the city of Jackson. Sanders said she has seen a handful go up since then.

Ken Ruff, a Jackson resident, was one to speak up on the issue of temporary signs at a recent public hearing. He moved away from Jackson, and when he returned, he was stunned by the number banners and marquees.

"That kind of a sign is generally on wheels or a trailer and designed for a promotion," said Ruff. "They become deteriorated, and letters are missing on them."

In one section of East Jackson Boulevard, there are four marquee signs in a two-parking-lot area. Two of the signs have no words on them.

Mary Winterhof, owner of Designers and More Consignment Shop, uses one of the four signs. She said she often changes the words to advertise sales and maintains it is vital for her business. She has been using the sign about four years and said an ordinance placing a time limit on the sign would hurt her business.

"A lot of people don't read signs on a building," she said. "You have to have a visual by the street to bring them in."

Winterhof may have nothing to worry about. The council may decide to grandfather in the current signs, allowing them to stay.

Even so, a time regulation will cost businesses more money.

Rick Smith, owner of Wesclay, a business that cleans air ducts, carpets and furniture, paid $300 for his marqee sign on East Jackson Boulevard. He looked into buying a permanent sign, he said, but the cost was $3,000 to $5,000.

Clint Collier of Sign Art Studio in Jackson said some signs can indeed get expensive, but he said he could build a permanent, basic letter board on an existing pole for roughly $500.

Members of the council and others also say the banners have gotten out of control.

Ten banners advertising beer, cigarettes and soda can be seen at Kidd's Gas and Convenience Store near the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Hope. In a two-block section of the street farther east, a bank, an auto parts store, gas stations and a pizza joint all use banners and posters to promote sales and services.

"Those things drive me crazy," Reiminger said. "If you've got a sale on sodas or furniture or whatever, it's fine to let people know you've got a sale going on, but if you've got five signs up, nobody's going to read all five anyway."

Some businesses leave signs up five to six weeks and don't remove them until after the wind blows the sticks down, he said. "That's obnoxious."

'What our customers want'

Mike Kohlfeld of Kohlfeld Distributing, which distributes several brands of beer to area retailers and can provide temporary signs, said some convenience store owners think the banners detract from the visual image, others think the signs are an enhancement to bring in customers. "We're in the service business, so we do what our customers want," he said.

Sanders, the building and planning superintendent, said restrictions may be difficult to enforce, especially if the council decides to grandfather in current temporary signs.

That would mean the city will have to inventory all the current signs, she said.

Sanders said the city could issue permits to business owners who wish to use marquee signs on a temporary basis. Enforcing regulations on banners and posters would be more difficult.

"That could be a nightmare for Janet's crew," Hoffman said. "We don't want to create a monster for her."

Regardless of what changes are made, one thing appears certain. The city will soon ask businesses to remove signs from the highway rights of way.

"We have to get them off the rights of way," said Alderman Joe Bob Baker.

Today's study session is open to the public. It begins at 7:30 p.m. at city hall.




What: Jackson Board of Aldermen study session

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: City hall, 101 Court St.

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