BY JENNIFER BAILEY
A crackdown on the city’s sign ordinance, dealing with vinyl banner-type signs, caused the city to send out about 55 letters to non-conforming businesses in the last month.
Now, city council members at their March 19 meeting will discuss the ordinance and businesses facing fines after Ward 7 Alderman Bill Black asked the ordinance be placed on a council agenda.
Black said he’s received phone calls from concerned business owners about letters they received at the end of February from the city asking that specific signs be removed before March 15 to avoid $100 per-day fines.
Gary Knight, owner of Carmack Car Capitol, was one of the owners to receive a letter.
Studio 31 Salon & Spa also on North Vermilion Street was another business. Its “Welcome” sign is illegal under the city ordinance.
“I imagine it cost a few bucks,” Black said of the signs.
Knight told Black he’s had banner signs up for many years. One of the signs isn’t visible from the street, Black said.
The letter to Carmack states the city recently performed a non-targeted survey of commercial properties and found illegal signs posted at businesses. The letter had photo copies of the illegal signs that violate the ordinance.
Business signs are allowed through the permitting process described in city ordinances. The letter was from the city’s new regulatory compliance specialist, Steve Sochotsky.
There were four illegal banner signs identified at Carmack, 3724 N. Vermilion St. Three on buildings and one closer to Vermilion Street connected to poles in the ground.
Black said constructive notice wasn’t given to the business owners.
The issue has most recently been discussed since last year when Ward 7 Alderman Steve Foster brought up the eyesores of tattered and torn banner signs left standing on properties. One on North Vermilion Street was causing sight issues for traffic.
Last year, Foster said curb appeal issues have become more common resident concerns about unsightly properties. This made city officials look at what the city ordinance includes.
“Our ordinance doesn’t differentiate between torn and tattered and other temporary signage,” Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said.
As city code enforcement officers are required to do by law in upholding the city ordinance requirements, the illegal signs were identified, he said.
“We felt that initially we’d send out letters identifying what the ordinance states, and asking for cooperation for their removal prior to any threat of fine or abatement,” Eisenhauer said.
He said aldermen can change the ordinance. Also, temporary sign permits could be created that would limit the signage to a certain number of days with a fee associated with it. Eisenhauer said other communities have the temporary sign permits.
Eisenhauer also cautions that if aldermen change the ordinance, they could open a door to having more and more signs that would negatively impact the community.
Some of the sign ordinance requirements:
A wall- or fence-mounted banner shall not exceed 5 percent of the facade upon which the banner is displayed while banners displayed between poles shall not exceed 32 square feet in area nor 5 feet in height. Banners shall be displayed for no longer than 120 days in any calendar year.